Maligned private Malaysian visa centre will not be terminated
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.