An unexpected deadline issued by Malaysia for illegal foreign workers to return home has left thousands of Nepali migrants in trouble.
The Malaysia government has recently asked all illegal foreign workers to leave the country by October 31. Following the announcement of the new deadline, the Nepali embassy in Malaysia has asked Nepali workers who entered the country illegally to obtain their travel documents at the earliest.
The deadline set by Malaysia has dashed the hope of illegal Nepali migrants of getting at least three months after the end of the recent biggest Malaysian exercise for registering illegal foreign workers under a biometric system.
Most of the illegal Nepali migrant workers, recently documented by Malaysia under the biometric system, were expecting November 30 as the possible deadline for leaving the country.
“Earlier, there was a general understanding that Malaysia would give at least three months after registering all foreign workers, legal and illegal, under the biometric system,” said Surya Bhandari, Nepal´s labor attaché to Malaysia.
“As the drive for documenting foreign workers lasted till the end of August, November 30 was considered as the likely deadline for illegal migrants to return home. Besides, there were rumors that Malaysia would extend the deadline till December.”
This is why, according to Bhandari, most of Nepali migrants had not prepared for leaving Malaysia so soon. With the announcement of October 31 as the deadline, some Nepali workers have contacted the embassy to ask how they could leave Malaysia in such a short period.
“Today, a Nepali worker called me and said he has booked an air ticket for November 10, but as per the new deadline, he has to leave Malaysia by October 31,” Bhandari told Republica Saturday, adding, “There are many workers who may be facing similar problems.”
Malaysian ministry of home affairs set the deadline on Thursday. Nepali embassy was informed about the decision on Friday. The deadline is particularly meant for those illegal Nepali workers whose finger-prints were documented under the biometric system last August, and who expressed their wishes to return home instead of applying to continue working in Malaysia.
Those Nepali workers who did not register themselves under the biometric system have also been asked to leave Malaysia by October 31.
However, Malaysian authorities have not clarified as to how they would track down those illegal workers whose finger-prints have not been taken during the documentation drive. Malaysian authorities have warned of strict actions against those illegal workers who fail to take advantage of the amnesty program.
During the Malaysian government´s drive to document all foreign workers, around 33,000 Nepali workers were found working illegally in Malaysia.
However, it is still not clear how many of them have expressed their wish to return home. Bhandari says the embassy provides travel documents to those who want to return to Nepal. “As far as those willing to work in Malaysia are concerned, we will help them recover their lost passports and get work permit,” Bhandari said.