After the Fall of Saigon, in 1975 (at the end of the Vietnam War) Malaysia experienced the immigration of Vietnamese refugees. The first refugee boat that arrived in Malaysia was in May 1975, carrying 47 people. A Vietnamese refugee camp was established later in Pulau Bidong in August 1978 with the assistance of the United Nations. As Vietnam began to witness economic growth in the early 1990s, the number of refugee arrivals also quickly dropped in the early 1990s. The joint collaboration efforts between Malaysia, Vietnam and UNHCR to address the refugee problem enabled Malaysia to quickly downsize its Vietnamese refugee populace, facilitating the closure of the Pulau Bidong refugee camp in November 1991.
A group of Vietnamese factory workers having a break in Taiping, Perak
A joint commission meeting between the two countries in 1996 saw the arrival of skilled and semi-skilled workers entering Vietnam from Malaysia in the late 1990s. Between 2002 and 2003, Malaysia saw the first wave of Vietnamese workers coming to Malaysia to provide for its labour demand in the expanding manufacturing sector. By 2003, there were 67,000 Vietnamese workers in Malaysia and both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding which exempted unskilled Vietnamese workers from having to master a sufficient grasp of English or Malaysian language to qualify for employment. The number of Vietnamese work permit holders increased slightly to 80,000-90,000 by 2011, and their presence later expanded to other sectors including construction, housekeeping, agriculture and service sectors. However, these permits also had been used by sexual traffickers to lure Vietnamese women into Malaysian brothels; one raid in January 2014 rescued a total of 108 victims, which 37 of them still have a valid passports.