Thousands of foreigners in Malaysia rush to leave before enforcement on illegals starts

Immigrants sleeping in the car park in KLIA. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thousands of foreigners are resorting to camping out at the country's main airports and ferry terminals as they scramble to leave the country before enforcement against illegals starts on Friday (July 1).

At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, many were seen sleeping in the car park while the departure lounges at KLIA2 were crowded.

Hundreds could not even get on their scheduled flights because the counter staff could not handle the huge crowds.

In Johor Baru, dozens of illegal Indonesian workers were seen rushing to beat the deadline of the recalibration programme.

At the Stulang Laut ferry terminal, there was a big crowd waiting to take the ferry home to Indonesia on Thursday.

Among them was cleaner Afni Juwana Harfal, 23, who said she had been in Malaysia for the past 10 years with her family.

"My parents returned to Indonesia recently and I decided to return home, too," she said. "I plan to start my own business in my hometown in Tanjung Pinang as there are not many job opportunities for me here."

Her husband, cleaner Febriyadi Armadi, 25, said he had been planning to go home since the Covid-19 outbreak.

"I wanted to go in 2020 but could not do so due to financial problems and the border closure," said Mr Febriyadi, who has been in Malaysia since 2018.

"With the cost of living here getting higher, I decided it was better to start afresh in our hometown."

Factory operator Rani, 40, said she was planning to return to her hometown in Kerinchi, Batam, as most of her family members had already done so.

"We initially planned to go home together but my salary came a bit late. The rest of my family went home yesterday (Wednesday)," she said, adding that she had no plans to return.

Ms Rani said her salary of only RM1,000 (S$318) was not enough to cover her monthly expenses.

An undocumented immigrant holds her daughter as both are detained during an immigration raid in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur, on July 1, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Johor Baru Indonesian consul for social culture affairs Mohamad Rizali Noor said they had been monitoring the situation at both the Stulang Laut and Pasir Gudang ferry terminals.

"We are anticipating a large crowd in the last few days of the programme. We have deployed our staff to monitor the situation at both terminals and to help those who need assistance," he said.

"Those who want to return home need to get a check-out memo from the Malaysian Immigration Department after paying the necessary compounds. They can then depart either the Stulang Laut or Pasir Gudang ferry terminals."

An immigration officer checking immigrants' documents during an immigration raid, in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur, on July 1, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Mohamad Rizali said the department could only issue a limited number of check-out memos in a day.

The recalibration programme allowing illegal immigrants to voluntarily return home started in November 2020 and had been set to end on June 30 last year.

However, the deadline was extended until Dec 30, 2021, and again to June 30 this year.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said action would be taken against those who commit any offence after the expiry of the recalibration programme.

He said the government had given the foreigners ample time to return home and that the Immigration Department would conduct large-scale operations to nab undocumented foreigners after the end of the programme.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.