By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine government on Friday urged the estimated 400,000 undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia to avail of the voluntary deportation program of that host country before it ends on August 30.
Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Charles Jose made the call in view of the ongoing crackdown by Malaysian authorities against undocumented foreign nationals following the termination of its two-year rehiring program for foreign workers in June 2018.
“We appeal to our undocumented kababayan in Malaysia to take this opportunity to be able to return to their loved ones in the Philippines without jail time or fines,” Jose said in a statement.
The envoy explained that the ongoing program allows undocumented migrants to leave Malaysia without having to serve jail time or settle compounded penalties.
He assured that the Embassy will assist those who wish to return home through the voluntary deportation program of the Malaysian government,” Ambassador Jose added.
An undocumented applicant will pay a fixed discounted penalty of 300 Malaysian ringgit regardless of the length of overstay and a 100 ringgit exit fee.
From January 2016 to June 2018, Jose said the Embassy has assisted roughly 50,000 Filipinos under this program by way of the issuance of travel documents and the payment of exit fees and one-way airfare to the Philippines.
The program, according to Jose, “coincides with the end of the Malaysian Government’s rehiring program on June 30 that allowed qualified undocumented foreign workers to apply for valid working permits and regularize their status under Malaysian law.”
So far, only 8,000 Filipinos—or two percent of the estimated number of undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia—applied for the rehiring program, despite the Embassy’s call to register.
According to Jose, the Embassy is working closely with the Malaysian immigration office in finding ways to address the concerns of undocumented Filipinos.
He advised those who wish to avail of the program but have no valid passports to proceed to the Embassy for interview and processing of their travel documents.
Along with the travel document or passport, the Embassy will provide the undocumented applicants with an endorsement letter that they will bring to the Malaysian immigration office. They are also advised to already make travel arrangements.
Jose said the Immigration department will then process the documents after the payment of the penalty and exit pass fees, and provide an exit pass valid for five to 14 days.
The individual should return to the Philippines within the time frame set by the Immigration department and have return arrangements within five days after the issuance of the exit pass.
Jose also reminded Filipinos in Malaysia to always carry with them their identification and legal documents following the termination of the rehiring program and the intensified campaign by Malaysian authorities against undocumented immigrants.