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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 02:15 GMT 03:15 UK
Migrants top Mahathir's Bali trip
Police arrest a woman and her family outside a UN office
Indonesians were arrested last week

The fate of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian migrant workers is expected to dominate talks on the island of Bali, between the Malaysian prime minister and the president of Indonesia.

The Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is expected to ask for a month-long extension to an amnesty under which illegal workers have been allowed to leave Malaysia freely.

A migrant worker protests outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta
Indonesians protested against the Malaysian laws
The Malaysian Government brought in tough new immigration laws on 1 August.

Workers caught without permits, and those who harbour them, face fines and mandatory punishments of six months in jail, and up to six strokes of the cane.

There were queues at Malaysia's ports as tens of thousand tried to leave the country in the days before the amnesty expired.

Malaysia has said that those who can prove they are planning to leave will be given extra time.

Help at hand

On Monday, Indonesia set up a taskforce to help its returnees.

Up to 300,000 - mostly Indonesian illegal workers - are thought to have left Malaysia since the amnesty was declared in March, but at least as many are thought to remain.

Indonesia's senior Welfare Minister, Yusuf Kala, who will head the taskforce, said he expected President Megawati, and the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, to sign an agreement on the repatriation process during their two-day meeting.

He also said he believed Malaysia's export-driven economy could suffer as a result of the crackdown.

Malaysian bosses agree. The Malaysian Employers' Federation says that more than half of the country's construction workers are outside the law, and building firms say they may face contractual penalties if projects finish late because of a lack of workers.

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 ON THIS STORY
Indonesian head of migration Manolo Abella
"Between these two countries there's been a long history of migration"
See also:

01 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Country profiles
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