There are quite a few unhappy expats stuck outside Malaysia, unable to return to the place they call home. Unlike other countries such as Singapore, which has allowed long-term visa holders to return to the country, the government in Malaysia has decided they will not honour the visas issued to foreigners and allow them to re-enter the country during the MCO period if they were unlucky enough to have been overseas at the time the MCO was rather quickly announced and implemented in mid-March.
One enterprising expat, Jamie Lee, has launched a Facebook group for those people who have been stuck outside the country. It’s called Expats/MM2H Stranded Outside Malaysia During the MCO. It provides a useful platform for them to share their stories and stay updated on the current rules. There are currently a little over 160 members and all with a common desire to be allowed to return to Malaysia.
From one perspective, it is understandable that the Malaysian government wants to do everything possible to control the spread of the disease. We believe they have certainly done well in that respect, and the outlook in Malaysia is generally looking quite good on the health front, although the strong focus on health and not getting the economy moving again may potentially cause problems of a different sort down the road.
What is both confusing and demoralising, however, is that officials in Malaysia have decided to take such a hard line approach to such a small group of people who either work here or have made Malaysia their home under the Malaysia My Second Home programme. From our perspective, it’s difficult to rationalise the decision to bar their re-entry to the country.
One such expat, who is stuck in Australia, wrote to immigration and received a reply saying the government was forced to take this tough stance. They said they appreciated the contribution of expats, but the national interest came first.
Here at TEG Media, we do not think these two sentiments are mutually exclusive, and have repeatedly called on the government to reverse this policy. Instead of sending a message to expats that they are of no interest to the government in a time of crisis, and especially to people under the MM2H programme who were invited here by the government, we believe allowing this small group back into the country would not cause the country any problems. In fact it, would send a positive message that expats are genuinely appreciated and respected as contributing residents of the country. Most expats we talk with have a genuine love for Malaysia, and it’s very unfortunate that the country appears to be turning its back on them.
The only possibly logical explanation for this “hard stance” is to avoid filling up hospital rooms with foreigners that they would prefer to see going to locals. That makes sense, except for the fact that this would be exceptionally unlikely to happen. Firstly, there are not that many visa holders stuck outside the country in the first place, and second, most have already been in quarantine in the countries where they are stuck. On top of that, virtually all of these expats accept that they will have to go through some sort of quarantine or even testing when they return. Several of them have even offered to pay the costs, if any.
Regardless of the fact they pose minimal risk, it does seem the government has zero interest in their plight or in trying to find an acceptable process that would allow expats or MM2Hers to “come home.” It’s most regrettable, but it seems that these stranded expats will just have to wait until the MCO ends, which may well be another month.
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