Thousands of Nepali migrant workers, who have violated immigration rules in Malaysia and are liable to legal action, will be able to return home because the Malaysian government has announced a general amnesty scheme for undocumented foreigners.
The five-month-long amnesty scheme—called Program Back for Good—will provide illegal foreigners, including thousands of Nepali workers, an opportunity to return to their respective home countries before the Malaysian government cracks down on them and makes arrests.
An estimated 15,000-20,000 Nepali migrant workers who are overstaying their visit or are living without valid documents in Malaysia can make use of the latest amnesty.
“There is no exact data on the number of Nepali workers who have overstayed in Malaysia; however, this amnesty is a good opportunity for them to utilise the scheme and return to Nepal,” Maheshwar Mani Tripathi, second secretary at the Embassy of Nepal in Malaysia, told the Post over the phone. “We encourage them to take this amnesty and return home.”
As per Malaysian rules, foreign workers with expired visas and those absconding from their original employers and working elsewhere without valid work permits are termed illegal.
To avail of the scheme, undocumented foreigners will have to pay Malaysian Ringgit 700 (equivalent Rs18, 737) in fine and get the special exit pass from the Malaysian Immigration Department.
Nepali workers without any valid documents or passports will have to first get the one-way travel document from the Nepal Embassy after paying Ringgit 160. “The embassy will issue the travel document, but the worker will have to bear the airfare cost themselves,” added Tripathi.
In the past, the Malaysian authorities had launched a massive crackdown on illegal foreigners in the country. Hundreds of Nepali workers had been arrested from various parts of the country. Over the years, Malaysia has remained one of the top destinations for Nepali migrant workers. However, workers turning undocumented had been a cause of concern for the embassy and the employers that hire workers.
According to the Malaysian Immigration Department statistics, there were 385,000 documented Nepali workers as of July 2018. The department had also estimated more than 1.7 million foreigners legally working in Malaysia during the same period.
The Malaysian government had iterated on many occasions in the past that there would not be another similar amnesty for expatriates violating the country’s immigration laws after the previous amnesty expired in July last year.
During the previous Voluntary Deportation Programme, also called 3-plus-1 programme, Malaysia had given options to illegal immigrants to either avoid legal actions by choosing to return to their home countries or obtain legal status through the rehiring programme.
The amnesty had also permitted undocumented workers, who could not rejoin their workplace or failed to find a new employer, to leave the country by August 30 last year without facing any legal actions. This year, however, illegal immigrants will be blacklisted and barred from entering Malaysia for an indefinite period.
Thousands of Nepali workers had availed the amnesty last year. According to the Nepal Embassy, nearly 15,000 illegal Nepali workers had used the amnesty last year. The Malaysian government could repatriate a total of 840,000 illegal immigrants during the last year’s amnesty.