More than 200 Nepalis are languishing in Malaysia jails

February 18, 2019

Chandan Kumar Mandal, The Kathmandu Post, February 17, 2019

As many as 206 Nepalis are languishing in different jails of Malaysia, according to the  Nepali Embassy in Malaysia.

The data collected by the embassy up to January 9 this year shows those Nepalis have been arrested for violating immigration rules, criminal activities, and drug abuse, among other illegal activities in the southeast Asian country.  

“Most of them have landed in jails for violating country’s immigration rules. Some of them have been arrested for drug abuse or their involvement in other criminal activities,” said Prem Raj Gautam, first secretary at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia has been one of the most preferred job destinations among outbound Nepali migrant workers, with the country’s Immigration Department data showing 385,000 documented Nepali workers until July 2018. A large number of Nepali workers are, however, said to be working in violation of the country’s immigration laws. Such undocumented Nepalis have been the real concern for the Nepali mission as well as the local authorities.

“During embassy officials’ visits to different jails, most of the Nepalis in detention centres admitted to have violated immigration rules. The number of drug users are also high among those detained,” Gautam said during embassy’s live streaming on Facebook this week.

Out of the total 82 Nepalis convicted of their crimes, 40 were related to drug abuse cases. Besides, a total of 170 Nepali citizens are in various detention centres of Malaysia. The embassy regularly rescues them and repatriates back to Nepal, providing required documents and air tickets. For those without passport, the embassy facilitates their repatriation by issuing a one-way travel document.

A total 77 Nepalis have been sent back home from various detention centres in Malaysia in the last two months.

The embassy sent back five Nepalis—Lok Bahadur Basnet and Haricha Yadav of Morang; Indralal Urau of Sunsari; Hari Bhandari of Tanahun and Lokendra Lawati of Paanchthar—on February 12. A day later, another group of 11 Nepali workers were sent back from two different detention centres, according to Gautam.  

Likewise, 14 Nepalis were repatriated on February 14 after being rescued from Johor Bahru detention centre.“We regularly meet them to learn about their condition and discuss the repatriation process,” added Gautam.

According to the Malaysian Immigration Department, the country hosts more than 1.7 million foreign workers. But it has an estimated 600,000 illegal immigrants.

The Malaysian government often comes up with offers of general amnesty to such undocumented workers if they wish to apply for the legal status and return home without facing any legal action. Last year, nearly 15,000 Nepali workers, who were staying there illegally, availed themselves of the general amnesty to return home before its deadline ended on August 30.

The Nepali Embassy in Malaysia has been encouraging Nepali citizens to get the legal status or return home, organising awareness programmes in various Malaysian cities and disseminating information through social media.

“We urge them to abide by the visa regulations, remember visa expiry dates, keep a copy of the passport with themselves all the time. Besides, they should have a clear understating of activities punishable by law,” Gautam said during the Facebook Live streaming.