Cross-Border Migration and the 2002 Nunukan Tragedy

  • Riwanto Tirtosudarmo


This chapter describes migration of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, particularly to Malaysia. Movement of people from Indonesian archipelago in Southeast Asia and beyond is historically common, yet the phenomena of overseas migrant workers are relatively recent. The erection nation-state’s borders following the process of decolonization halted the previously free flows and movements of people in the Malay world. As increasing number of working age population cannot be accommodated domestically, in the early 1980s, a number of middlemen began to send Indonesian workers abroad, particularly to the Middle East and Malaysia. The unpreparedness in responding the demand for overseas work plagued the government and resulted in ad hoc policy that failed to properly manage the flood of overseas migrant workers. The increasing number of undocumented migrant workers becomes a security and political issues in Malaysia. The deportation of undocumented migrant workers is therefore common, but in 2002 a huge deportation occurred and these thousands of migrant workers tragically stranded without any assistance in Nunukan in the border between Sabah and East Kalimantan. The Nunukan tragedy is a clear example of the state’s failure in managing the increasing cross-border labour migration.


Cross-border migration Migrant workers Deportation Ad hoc policy Nunukan 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Riwanto Tirtosudarmo
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center for Society and CultureIndonesian Institute of SciencesJakartaIndonesia

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