Monday, December 14, 2009

Shutting the door on Malaysians

IF it has turned out that Malaysians no longer deserve the trust of foreign immigration authorities, so be it: let Britain impose a visa requirement on our citizens travelling to the United Kingdom. Almost a year has been added as a grace period after Britain declared in July last year a six-month deadline for 11 countries to tighten controls on their nationals abusing British immigration laws, or be denied the historical privilege of being able to enter the UK without visas.

But there has been scant discernible effect. In this regard, Malaysia sits in an inglorious roster of offenders: Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. And our country regularly features among the top 20 offenders for immigration abuse in Britain generally, and the top 10 for overstayers -- one un-verified estimate puts their number at 30,000. Malaysian authorities did what they could to encourage them to come home under "amnesty", where they would face no charges but be barred from visiting Britain again for five years, or leaving Malaysia for two. The response was tepid, to say the least.

This is but one aspect of the Ugly Malaysian abroad. Although the vast majority of Malaysians will have good reason to deplore having to undergo screening and pay visa fees before being allowed to visit Britain, all must understand what even a few bad apples can do. And Malaysians seem consistently among the less upstanding global citizens. Malaysia ranks top of the heap of fake passports seized at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, with a widespread reputation for being the easiest to buy on the black market in the region. This year, the number of Malaysian drug mules surfacing in foreign prisons finally alarmed the citizenry into awareness. And although there had been a decline in the number of Malaysians barred from entry at British immigration counters from a high in 2006 of an average 135 individuals a month, last year a monthly average of 69 Malaysians trying to enter the UK had to turn around and fly straight back. Editorial New Straits Times

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