Migrants blame slow embassy for arrests

The Malaysian authorities are arresting an increasing number of Burmese migrant workers. Source: Wikimedia

Myanmar migrants in Malaysia with legal documents are being forced to overstay illegally because their embassy is taking four to six months to return their visas after “heavily scrutinising passports”, according to the Myanmar Times.

“There are many migrants whose legal status lapsed because they did not get their passport returned from the embassy on time,” Ko Kyaw Zay Lwin, chairman of the Yadana Setka Free Funeral Service Association in Malaysia, told the paper.

He said about 15 per cent of migrants had ended up being arrested and imprisoned.

Malaysia has been issuing temporary passports, called 6Ps, for migrants with expired passports by working with representatives from the embassies, according to Burmese sources.

The Myanmar embassy has issued about 60,000 6Ps during the previous four years.

But allegations of fake paperwork have driven the embassy to pay more attention to the applications, comparing them with records back home, a process which is hampered by Myanmar’s notoriously inefficient bureaucracy.

This extra scrutiny is delaying the process, according to Burmese activists.

They reported these two problems to the ambassador, who has discussed the issues with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. She is due to visit migrants in Malaysia next month.

“Previously, migrants who had fake nationality cards got passports,” said migrant rights activist Thiha Maung Maung in Malaysia.

“So the embassy is now scrutinising everything. Thus, reissuing the expiring passports has been delayed.”

Migrants in Malaysian detention camps were having trouble getting their citizenship confirmed, activists were quoted saying by the Myanmar Times.

Migrant Ko Wai Lin said: “I applied to extend my passport. It has been delayed for over three months. When I asked the embassy it said 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.

“Now we don’t dare to go anywhere. We are afraid of the police and crackdowns on illegal migrants. Everyone at the embassy should be replaced. Because of them, many migrants are in prison.”

There were illicit ways that migrants could get their passport within a week if they paid a broker 1,500 Malaysian ringgit (US$377), migrant worker Ko Wai Lin said.

“If migrants who are arrested for illegally overstaying their passport can show the judge proof that they are trying to extend their passport’s life, they can get a reduced sentence,” said Ko Kyaw Zay Lwin.