KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar nationals working in Malaysia with legal documents are being forced to overstay because the Myanmar embassy is taking four to six months to return their visas.
This is because the embassy is “heavily scrutinising passports”, according to a report in The Myanmar Times.
“There are many migrants whose legal status lapsed because they did not get their passport returned from the embassy on time,” the report quoted Ko Kyaw Zay Lwin, chairman of the Yadana Setka Free Funeral Service Association, in Malaysia, as saying.
He estimated that about 15 per cent of the workers ended up being arrested and imprisoned.
Over the last four years, the Malaysian Government has been issuing temporary passports, called 6Ps, for every migrant whose passport had expired, by working with representatives from the embassies, according to migrant activists.
Over that time, the Myanmar embassy issued about 60,000 6Ps.
However, the report said, following the discovery that some of the applicants had fabricated details in the paperwork, the embassy was now taking a hard look at all the applications, comparing them with the applicants’ original documents and checking on the listed household information.
This extra scrutiny is delaying the process, according to the activists.
“Previously, migrants who had fake nationality cards got passports,” said migrant rights activist U Thiha Maung Maung, head of a group that supports Myanmar’s prominent cleric Sitagu Sayadaw in Malaysia.
“So the embassy is now scrutinising everything. Thus, reissuing the expiring passports has been delayed,” he was quoted as saying.
In addition to the lengthy passport extension process, migrants in Malaysian detention camps are having trouble getting their citizenship confirmed, Myanmar migrant activists from Malaysia told The Myanmar Times.
They have reported these problems to Myanmar’s ambassador here.
Ko Wai Lin, a Myanmar national working in Malaysia, told the newspaper: “I applied to extend my passport. It has been delayed for over three months. When I asked the embassy, it was not issued.
“Now, I and many Myanmar workers are undocumented because of the irresponsible embassy staff. I really am a Myanmar citizen. I even gave them all my documents.”
Ko Wai Lin has not gotten his passport back , the report said.
“Now, we don’t dare to go anywhere,” he was quoted as saying. “We are afraid of the police and crackdowns on illegal migrants. Everyone at the embassy should be replaced with new workers. Because of them, many migrants are in prison.”
However, Ko alleged, migrants could get their passport within a week if they could afford to pay a broker RM1,500.
Many migrants have also lost their work permits – which have to be issued by Malaysian immigration officials each year – because they could not apply on time without their passports.
The Myanmar Times said it called the Myanmar embassy on July 11 but had yet to receive a response.