Ma­ligned pri­vate Malaysian visa cen­tre will not be ter­mi­nated

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­

ONE Stop Cen­ter (OSC), a Malaysian visa ap­pli­ca­tion ser­vice, will not be ter­mi­nated un­less the Malaysian govern­ment comes up with a bet­ter plan for han­dling il­le­gal mi­grant work­ers, Malaysian am­bas­sador to Myan­mar Mohd Han­iff Abd Rah­man told The Myan­mar Times on Au­gust 12.

“The main rea­son is that se­cu­rity for our coun­try is very im­por­tant to us,” he said. “We want to en­sure the se­cu­rity of the coun­try. The Malaysian govern­ment is fac­ing huge prob­lems with un­doc­u­mented for­eign work­ers, il­le­gal work­ers. Un­less the govern­ment comes out with a bet­ter plan, this OSC will re­main.”

Ear­lier this year, the Malaysian em­bassy in Myan­mar an­nounced that it would raise its visa charges for work­ers from US$6 to US$57, with the fees go­ing to an over­seas em­ploy­ment agency based in Myan­mar called Di­a­mond Palace, which would of­fer “on­estop ser­vice” start­ing on Jan­uary 18.

The em­bassy said the ad­di­tional charges were nec­es­sary to im­prove visa tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing the sys­tem faster and more se­cure. Di­a­mond Palace’s OSC, a func­tional mo­nop­oly, reaps a $25 ser­vice fee and a $26 sys­tems fee on ev­ery ap­pli­ca­tion.

Sim­i­lar one-stop cen­tres are be­ing op­er­ated in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, In­dia and China, which, along with Myan­mar, are the coun­tries that send the most mi­grant work­ers to Malaysia, said Mr Rah­man.

In July, the Myan­mar Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Agen­cies Fed­er­a­tion (MOEAF) re­quested the govern­ment take back con­trol of the visa process for work­ers and put an end to al­leged price goug­ing at the OSC.

MOEAF’s letter asked Myan­mar’s for­eign min­istry to meet with its Malaysian coun­ter­part to dis­cuss the pol­icy, ac­cord­ing to MOEAF spokesper­son U Kyaw Htin Kyaw.

On Au­gust 5, there was a three-way meet­ing be­tween rep­re­sen­ta­tives from MOEAF, the Malaysian em­bassy and the OSC, ac­cord­ing to Ko Myo Win Yin, an of­fi­cial re­spon­si­ble for mi­grant af­fairs at MOEAF.

“We just went there and re­ported to the em­bassy the dif­fi­cul­ties we are fac­ing with OSC so now we just have to wait,” he said.

Di­a­mond Palace chair U Thein Than told The Myan­mar Times that the visa fees, in­clud­ing the ser­vice fees, are fixed by the Malaysian govern­ment. The OSC works un­der the Malaysian em­bassy, he said, not­ing that that the fees are non­re­fund­able.

“The OSC is only in charge of the ap­pli­ca­tion process,” Mr Rah­man said. “The OSC is re­spon­si­ble for doc­u­men­ta­tion and it is guided by the Malaysian em­bassy and Malaysian pol­icy. They do not work in­de­pen­dently. They work by them­selves but we have the fi­nal say. If the doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted is sus­pi­cious, we have the right to de­cline.”

The em­bassy con­tin­ued to ex­plain that the sys­tem in­te­grates with a Malaysian im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that stores the in­for­ma­tion taken by the OSC in a data­base, al­low­ing govern­ment of­fi­cials ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion with the per­son’s fin­ger­prints.

“We are not only try­ing to pro­tect the in­ter­est of Malaysia but also the in­ter­est of Myan­mar work­ers,” Mr Rah­man said. “We do not want Myan­mar work­ers to get treated poorly by Malaysian em­ploy­ers. If work­ers are not doc­u­mented, the work­ers will not be able to com­plain and can­not do any­thing if they ever face un­fair­ness.”

There has al­ready been a de­crease in il­le­gal mi­grant work­ers since the sys­tem was en­acted, he said.

“The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties also lie with the em­ploy­ment agen­cies,” he said. “Agents should make sure that the work­ers they are go­ing to send to Malaysia are not black­listed and have no crim­i­nal records.”

Shortly af­ter the OSC was an­nounced, MOEAF set a mora­to­rium on send­ing work­ers to Malaysia un­til the fee in­crease was re­duced or borne by the Malaysian of­fi­cials. A tem­po­rary re­duc­tion was ne­go­ti­ated for 8000 work­ers who had al­ready ap­plied for the over­seas jobs.

An es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion Myan­mar mi­grants work in Malaysia, many of them un­doc­u­mented and vul­ner­a­ble to traf­fick­ing and forced labour.

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