Facilitating Irregular Migration into Malaysia and from Indonesia: Illicit Markets, Endemic Corruption and Symbolic Attempts to Overcome Impunity


Discourses around illicit markets for irregular migration focus on criminality and global dimensions threatening border security and the sovereignty of the state. Organised crime has generally been understood to be committed by crime syndicates outside or parallel to the dominant order and formal economy. In Malaysia and Indonesia, however, the state (or parts thereof) is heavily implicated in such crime and essential for the success of unsanctioned trans-border movements. The participation of state officials could be analysed as a convergence of extralegal income generation and symbolic law enforcement. This article presents case studies from Malaysia and Indonesia that could only have taken place because security officials facilitated them. It challenges the orthodoxy of a state versus criminal network opposition and seeks to explain the circumstances under which legal prosecution occurs. The symbolic punishment of low-ranking officials reinforces networks of control, power hierarchies and cooperation of the state in illicit markets.

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