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