PETALING JAYA: A lawyer is fuming after seeing a crowd of homeward-bound migrant workers packed into the car park of Kuala Lumpur International Airport while waiting for their applications to be processed.
The lawyer, CR Selva, said he arrived at KLIA at 10am with another lawyer, Harpal Singh, after coming across several videos showing the crowd of migrants at the airport.
He was still there when speaking by phone to FMT at around 2.30pm, and only left in the evening.
Selva said many of the workers, mostly Bangladeshi and Indonesians, had arrived yesterday for the government’s recalibration programme and were still waiting to be processed by immigration officers.
The recalibration programme is for undocumented illegals to be repatriated voluntarily to their country of origin.
The migrants were told to sit in the airport’s parking area, with no fans to keep them cool amid the hot and humid weather. Their flight was only scheduled for tomorrow, but some had arrived at the airport yesterday.
“The holding area shouldn’t be the car park. Even so, there must be basic facilities. This could have been avoided because children are among them too,” he said.
He urged the immigration department to open up more counters to process the migrants’ applications, and use other airports like Subang airport.
“There’s no need to be so bureaucratic. I pity the officers here because there’s only skeletal staff. But the department has thousands of officers that it can mobilise. It’s a matter of planning.
“It’s so crowded, and yet they talk about social distancing? Do we want a KLIA cluster? This is the time for Malaysia to show empathy,” he said.
Selva, who used to work in the immigration department himself before leaving to set up practice, said this was a crisis situation requiring urgent response, not a “business-as-usual” matter.
He also said he was not allowed to approach the migrant workers because they had been cordoned off, questioning why this was done since they were not arrested.
Selva said the repeated cases of migrants being stranded at the airport could deter others from signing up for the recalibration programme.
He said several restaurants were generous in providing meals to the stranded folks at KLIA.
On July 21, FMT reported that the Malaysian Sikh Association had been distributing about 1,000 food packs a day to hundreds of migrants stranded at KLIA since July 15 as they waited for their applications to be processed.
That day, immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said special counters at KLIA had been overwhelmed, causing many migrants to miss their flights.
Since then, the department has opened up 20 more counters.
Yesterday, FMT reported that hundreds of Nepali workers were stranded in Malaysia because they were unable to get their “exit memo”, a document foreign workers must obtain upon expiry of their work permits before they can go home.
The Nepal embassy said this was the result of immigration offices remaining closed because of national Covid-19 restrictions.