SINGAPORE - She started queueing at 6.45am to renew her passport that is due to expire next month, but Madam Lim reached the gates of the Malaysian consulate here only five hours later.
The 50-year-old clerk, who did not wish to give her full name, said she had expected a queue but was shocked to see hundreds of people lining up at the High Commission of Malaysia on Tuesday (March 16) morning.
Madam Lim, who is a permanent resident here, said she was turned away as the consulate had hit its daily limit of 30 walk-in applicants.
Malaysians who spoke to The Straits Times said long lines at the High Commission have been a persistent issue throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
Many have taken to social media to express their frustrations.
One Facebook user, who had to renew his passport in January, compared it to queueing for concert tickets. Another said the elderly and wheelchair users had to wait for hours under the sun. "Everything is chaotic regardless of whether one has made an advance appointment via e-mail," she wrote in February.
According the High Commission's Facebook page, walk-in applications for passport renewals resumed in December. They were halted from March 30 last year due to Covid-19, and Malaysians here were told to apply online and wait for an appointment date to collect their passports. The consulate also said in December that due to social distancing measures, it would process only urgent cases, where passports or long-term passes had less than three months' validity.
Those who spoke to The Straits Times said the March school holidays appeared to have made the snaking lines worse. Some were told there were technical issues limiting the number of applications that could be processed in a day.
Mr Tommy Yap, 47, a permanent resident, said the queues have been an ongoing issue since last year. His 10-year-old boy's passport expired in December and his wife went to the consulate with their son at 7am one January morning - an hour before it was supposed to open.
By then, there was already a queue of more than 200 people.
As they could not apply online because children and seniors are required to walk in, they decided to wait for the March school holidays to try again.
"A lot of people told us that people would start queueing at midnight," he said.
While Mr Yap was concerned by the lack of social distancing, he also understood the constraints faced by the consulate. "The High Commission may be short-handed. There may also be an overwhelming number of applications because people will usually go back to Johor Baru to do their passport renewals but the borders are closed now," he added.
Madam Lim managed to collect her new passport on Thursday evening after she went back to the consulate on Wednesday at 5.30am, queued again for several hours, and got her application processed. "I'm just glad it is finally done," she said in Mandarin.
Acting High Commissioner of Malaysia to Singapore Muhammad Radzi Jamaludin declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.