Sunday, August 21, 2016

Myanmar begins repatriation of 2,000 migrants from Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 ― Beginning this week, the Myanmar government will be beginning the process of taking home some 2,000 of its people who have been detained for months in Malaysia, Myanmar Times reported today.

The whole process could take up to a month with at least 10 chartered flights, each carrying 130 migrants on board, according to the report.

“We have plans go through this repatriation process more than 10 times, chartering flights with more than 130 on board each time,” Myanmar’s labour and immigration ministry permanent secretary U Myo Aung was quoted saying.

Migrant workers from Myanmar were detained by Malaysian authorities, reportedly for various offences, including expiration of their visas.

However, the newspaper also reported criticisms against the Myanmar embassy for allegedly taking too long to approve visa extensions for the migrant workers, which led to their detention by authorities here. As such, they were unable to return even after their citizenship had been confirmed.

The Myanmar official was also reported saying its government planned to help the workers secure jobs after repatriation, though it was unclear if it would be in Myanmar or elsewhere.

The repatriation process is being funded by private donors such as MAI Airlines and KBZ Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation.

The process was supposed to start in July, but was cancelled due to lack of funding.

Last year, tens of thousands of Myanmar and Bangladesh nationals were left stranded at sea by human traffickers in Southeast Asian waters. More than 1,000 of them landed in Malaysia’s northwestern island of Langkawi.

The subsequent investigation into the human trafficking syndicate led to discovery of 139 sites mass graves at the north of Malaysia, near the Thailand border, where Myanmar refugees, mostly from the minority Muslim Rohingya community, were believed to have been held