By Kuhlin Ceslie Gacula
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday appealed to the estimated 400,000 undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia to avail themselves of the voluntary repatriation offer from the Malaysian government before it ends this month.
“We appeal to our undocumented kababayans (countrymen) in Malaysia to take this opportunity to be able to return to their loved ones in the Philippines without jail time or fines,” Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Charles C. Jose said.
“We assure you that the Embassy will assist you in your return home through the voluntary deportation program of the Malaysian Government,” Jose added.
Furthermore, the ambassador said the ongoing program allows undocumented migrants to leave Malaysia without having to serve jail time or settle compounded penalties.
Thus, illegal immigrants only have to pay a fixed discounted penalty of 300 Malaysian ringgit regardless of length of overstay and a 100 ringgit exit fee.
From January 2016 to June 2018, the Philippine Embassy has assisted roughly 50,000 Filipinos under the program by issuing travel documents and shouldering their exit fees and one-way airfare to the Philippines.
The envoy said the program coincides with the end of the Malaysian government’s rehiring program on 30 June that allowed qualified undocumented foreign workers to apply for valid working permits and regularize their status under Malaysian law.
Despite the embassy’s unrelenting information campaign to register, Jose said only 8,000 Filipinos—or two percent of the estimated number of undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia—applied for the rehiring program.
Nevertheless, the embassy is working closely with the Malaysian Immigration Department in finding ways to address the concerns of undocumented Filipinos, according to the envoy.
“The Embassy has been proactive in assisting and looking after the welfare of Filipinos working and residing in Malaysia regardless of their immigration status,” he said.
“Our assistance to those in need has been there and is continuing so I appeal to our kababayans to take the voluntary deportation offer before 30 August,” Jose said.
Filipinos who wish to avail themselves of the program but have no valid passports are advised to proceed to the embassy for interview and processing of their travel documents.
Along with the travel document or passport, they will be provided with an endorsement letter which they will take to the Immigration Department. They are also advised to already make travel arrangements at this time.
The immigration department will process the documents after 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 issuance of the exit pass.
In light of the termination of the rehiring program and the intensified campaign by the Malaysian government against undocumented immigrants, the embassy reminded Filipinos in Malaysia to always carry with them their identification and legal documents.