The Asian economic crisis dramatically influenced the context in which a growing number of international migrants had begun to spread from poorer to more industrialised countries in East Asia, accompanying the export and FDI booms of the 1990s. Important uncertainties included the impact on clandestine migrant workers, replacement of migrants by local workers and countervailing pressures for increased migration in labour exporting countries. The paper argues that the Asian economic crisis did not change the fundamental trend toward greater mobility within the region. The labour importers among the crisis countries continued to rely on unskilled migrant workers in ‘3-D’ jobs in export-oriented industries, and business and professional migrants played an important role in the recovery. In addition, pressures mounted for greater international migration of unskilled workers from poorer, labour surplus countries. However, several countries were forced to develop a more coherent policy towards migrant workers, in light of the social impact on migrants.