The ministry was setup in 2002 in response to the growing number of migrant workers who faced difficulties in the northern states of Malaysia. The ministry acts as the arm of the Catholic Church of the Penang Diocese that reaches out to migrant workers in line with the church's social teachings that calls it to respond to the pain and suffering of all men and women regardless of age, creed, race or religion.
Malaysia is currently one of the biggest importers of migrant labour in Asia. Its growing economy coupled with local labour shortage has rendered the country dependent on migrant labour. Construction, plantation, agriculture and manufacturing industries in the country have become highly dependent on migrant labour. The dynamics behind this dependency are complex. Nevertheless, the willingness of migrant workers to work in low paying 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous & demanding) often shunned by locals have contributed greatly to this tremendous influx of migrant labour in Malaysia. Statistics reveal that currently migrant labour (documented and undocumented) makes up almost 28% of the labour force in Malaysia.
While it is no doubt that Malaysia has become a country that offers opportunities to migrant workers otherwise unavailable in their home countries, it has become a destination where migrant workers are often exploited and oppressed. This exploitations are numerous and range from non payment of wages to unlawful termination, physical abuse to arbitrary detention by authorities.
While the law, specifically the Employment Act 1955, protects the migrant worker, the other legislations like the Immigration Act 1959/63 often limit the full protection the migrant workers can receive from the Employment Act 1955. Government services to migrant workers who are in trouble are almost non-existent or half-heartened leaving scores of migrant workers in precarious situations.
With this in mind, the Catholic Church of the Northern Diocese recognised the need to offer much services to migrant workers who have no where else to turn to. The Ministry with Migrant Workers also plays an important role in helping the local church goers see that she needs to embrace migrant workers who visit our churches and make them an integral part of the parish.
The ministry is manned by two full-time staff and volunteers who have dedicated themselves to the service of migrant workers.