Immigration officers have the law on their side when they adhere to SOPs but unfortunately lose in the court of public opinion.
By CY Ming
Our immigration officers are likely to be given the benefit of the doubt despite the serious allegations of a Taiwanese woman who was denied entry into Malaysia at the klia2 recently.
However the court of public opinion is likely to swing should another accusation of ill-treatment be made against them by a foreigner, which is likely to happen if no changes are made.
Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali maintained that standard operating procedures (SOP) were followed in the case of the Taiwanese woman.
Nearly 1.5 million passengers pass through Kuala Lumpur International Airport each month. Every day, between 10 and 100 are denied entry under the Not To Land (NTL) order.
For the first two months of this year, 3,592 people were slapped with the NTL order, an average of 60 per day.
Airlines that have flown in these passengers are required to send them back, taking care of their food and welfare while in detention.
The reason the Taiwanese woman was denied entry has been made clear and does not require further explanation as her passport was damaged.
But her allegation of ill-treatment should be addressed. Was it true that she was asked to pay RM1,000 for her early release? We may never know but I hope that was not the case.
Was the detention centre dark, crowded and filthy, with no doors for the toilet as she alleged and was the woman made to sleep on the floor?
Whether considered undesirable elements to society or for technical reasons, those denied entry into the country ought to be treated in a humane manner.
If a few hundred people can be held up at the airport detention centre, then the area must be designed to accommodate that capacity of people and have adequate facilities for the basic needs of the detainees.
If not, our immigration officers may very well have the law on their side when they follow SOPs but lose in the court of public opinion, and as a result it is our tourism industry that suffers the most.
Fortunately, the complaint by the Taiwanese woman was an isolated incident, as 22,222 people will be detained at KLIA this year, going by the rate of the first two months of the year alone.
CY Ming is an FMT reader.
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