Few Nepalis apply for Malaysia amnesty scheme for undocumented workers

Few Nepalis apply for Malaysia amnesty scheme for undocumented workers

The Malaysian government has once again rolled out an amnesty scheme targeting illegal immigrants, including undocumented Nepali workers, giving them a chance to return home.

Under the latest scheme, Nepalis living in Malaysia illegally can voluntarily return home without facing any serious legal actions.

“Nepali workers can apply to return home under this scheme,” Pratik Karki, second secretary at the Nepali Embassy in Malaysia, told the Post over the phone. “The difference between the previous amnesty scheme and the new one is that workers will be required to pay only 500 Malaysian ringgits (approximately Rs20,295) compared to RM700 in the past.”

The Malaysian government launched its Illegal Immigrant Recalibration Plan to manage illegal immigrants in the country. There are two distinct programmes under the plan—the Labour Recalibration Programme and the Return Recalibration Programme.

The Return Recalibration Programme allows illegal immigrants to return home voluntarily. In contrast, the Labour Recalibration Programme aims to allow illegal immigrants to get registered and find employment with eligible Malaysian employers.

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The Nepali Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been asking undocumented Nepali workers in the Southeast Asian country to utilise the scheme and return home without facing any legal hurdles.

Those willing to return via the Return Recalibration Programme have to take an appointment with the Malaysian Immigration Department. On the stipulated day, the worker has to be present with all the required documents and pay the fine of RM500 for receiving a checkout memo from the authority for leaving the country.

“The embassy has been facilitating interested Nepalis who want to leave the country with the application process and booking their appointment day,” said Karki. “Due to Covid-19 safety issues, prior appointments have to be made, and there are fewer slots which keep on filling up quickly.”

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However, Nepali workers’ enthusiasm to take part in the scheme has remained lukewarm compared to that for similar schemes in the past.

“So far, some 100 plus have applied, and we have fixed their appointments. But, the response to the scheme has not looked encouraging as of now,” said Karki. “It seems people are more interested in rehiring programme.”

Under the rehiring programme of Labour Recalibration Programme, local employers engaged in four sectors—construction, manufacturing, plantation and agriculture—can submit applications for hiring workers among the illegal ones under the quota fixed by the Department of Labour. Such workers should not have any police case against them.

Workers from 15 countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, and Indonesia) are eligible under the Illegal Immigrant Recalibration Plan.

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Local authorities have expected that nearly 250,000 illegal immigrants will utilise the scheme, which will continue until June 2021.

Nepali workers have also benefited from such amnesty schemes in the past. Earlier this year, nearly 6,000 Nepali workers returned home under ‘Back for Good Programme.’ In 2018, nearly 15,000 Nepali workers had returned home under the Voluntary Deportation Programme, also called the “3-plus-1” programme.

Malaysia remains one of the most popular labour destinations for Nepali migrant workers. It is estimated that the number of undocumented Nepali workers could be between 10,000 to 15,000.

“The response to the scheme has been slow as those undocumented could be thinking of applying when the deadline nears,” said Karki. “Also, most Nepalis in Malaysia are working legally.”

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