The labour migration regimes that have emerged in Southeast Asia over the past 20 years have repeatedly failed to protect workers against trafficking and other forms of exploitation. In practice, migration often takes place in parallel to the formal channels laid down in domestic legislation and regulated in the memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between countries of origin and destination.
It has been argued that it is safer for labour migrants to use state-sanctioned regimes than irregular channels of migration, but this thematic paper shows that even where labour migrants do use regular migration channels, they are still at risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Only once fundamentally reformed, will regular migration processes contribute effectively to reducing and ending human trafficking and labour exploitation.
This thematic brief sets out these challenges and makes recommendations for how regular migration channels might be improved.