Gov­ern­ment be­gins repa­tri­at­ing 2000 mi­grants from Malaysia

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­

THE gov­ern­ment repa­tri­ated more than 130 Myan­mar mi­grants yes­ter­day, fly­ing them home from Malaysia where they had been de­tained for months.

In July, the gov­ern­ment made plans to repa­tri­ate 2000 de­tained work­ers af­ter es­tab­lish­ing the Mi­grant Pro­tec­tion Com­mit­tee on June 5.

The repa­tri­a­tion process started yes­ter­day with help from pri­vate donors like the KBZ Brighter Fu­ture Myan­mar Foun­da­tion and MAI air­line.

“We have plans go through this repa­tri­a­tion process more than 10 times, char­ter­ing flights with more than 130 on board each time,” said labour and im­mi­gra­tion min­istry per­ma­nent sec­re­tary U Myo Aung.

Mi­grant work­ers have been de­tained in Malaysia for nu­mer­ous rea­sons, in­clud­ing ex­pired visas. Mi­grant rights groups have com­plained that the Myan­mar em­bassy in Malaysia is tak­ing too long to ap­prove visa ex­ten­sions. Once de­tained, ac­tivists have said, the em­bassy takes a long time to con­firm their Myan­mar cit­i­zen­ship, lead­ing to pro­longed de­ten­tion. Once cit­i­zen­ship is con­firmed, many de­tainees can­not af­ford to re­turn home.

The min­istry did not have pre­cise de­tails on the to­tal num­ber of mi­grant work­ers who had been repa­tri­ated, U Myo Aung said, but the process could be fin­ished within a month.

“We are plan­ning not just to repa­tri­ate these cit­i­zens but also find them job op­por­tu­ni­ties when pos­si­ble,” he said.

The re­cently en­acted plans were led by the par­lia­ment-formed Su­per­vi­sion Com­mit­tee of Over­seas Em­ploy­ment within the Min­istry of Labour and Im­mi­gra­tion, said U Thein Win, a se­nior of­fi­cer within the min­istry.

In July, plans to repa­tri­ate more than 700 Myan­mar work­ers in Malaysia were can­celled due to lack of fund­ing.

Myan­mar’s em­bassy in Malaysia said one pledged donor with­drew their con­tri­bu­tion. How­ever, an em­bassy of­fi­cial said they are still mov­ing for­ward with the process.

“The em­bassy is con­firm­ing cit­i­zen­ship through a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process and plan to repa­tri­ate all con­firmed cit­i­zens depend­ing on funds,” said the em­bassy of­fi­cial.

Em­bassy work­ers vis­ited camps around Malaysia in or­der to con­firm cit­i­zen­ship when­ever pos­si­ble, the of­fi­cial said.

“We are repa­tri­at­ing all con­firmed cit­i­zens who are fac­ing fi­nan­cial trou­ble with re­turn flights as­sis­tance through do­nated funds,” the em­bassy said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

Daw Aye Mar Tha, public re­la­tion man­ager for Myan­mar Air­line In­ter­na­tional (MAI) said the MAI part­ner associated with the KBZ foun­da­tion as­sisted in the repa­tri­a­tion and the com­pany is still stand­ing by for fu­ture repa­tri­a­tion plans, though they are not sure of the time­line.

“We do­nated to this repa­tri­a­tion ef­fort and we do not know ex­actly how the process is go­ing to work be­cause it is be­ing im­ple­mented by the em­bassy,” she said. “How­ever, we are stand­ing by with char­ter flights and we are ready any time the gov­ern­ment ap­proves a group of peo­ple for repa­tri­a­tion.”

Photo: Nyan Zay Htet

Nearly 70 work­ers were repa­tri­ated from de­ten­tion cen­tres in Malaysia on July 20. The gov­ern­ment has pledged to re­turn over 2000.

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