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As many as 1,500 Burmese migrants in Malaysia have signed up for repatriation, after a series of violent attacks against Burmese nationals in the country, according to a crony-owned non-profit organisation.
Representatives from the Ayeyarwady Foundation, founded by the owner of Max Myanmar, Zaw Zaw, is currently in Malaysia to assist Burmese nationals who want to return home.
Ye Myo Hein, public relations director at the Ayeyarwady Foundation, told DVB that 400 undocumented migrants have been issued with identity cards verifying them as Burmese citizens, while another 100 have been granted special passes by the Malaysian immigration department formally authorising their return.
“Those who want to sign up [for repatriation] must approach the [Burmese] embassy first for their identify certificate, which can be issued within a day and we will make appointments for them with the [Malaysian] immigration authorities [to apply for the special pass] which can be issued within three days,” said Ye Myo Hein.
He added that Malaysian authorities were accepting 40 special pass applications per a day, while Myanmar Airways International was planning to start transporting 70 migrants per flight back to Burma by next week. It follows a public pledge by the military-owned airline to cut airfares by 50 percent for one month to help Burmese migrants who want to return home.
A number of prominent cronies, including Zaw Zaw and Tay Za, have also pledged to support the migrant population in Malaysia, after five Burmese nationals were brutally killed and six others injured. Reports suggest that the attacks might have been carried out to avenge a recent spate of anti-Muslim violence in Burma.
Max Myanmar previously donated US$20,000 to support the Kepong Free Funeral Service, which provides free funerals to Burmese migrant workers. Meanwhile, Tay Za, who owns Air Bagan, has also promised to arrange flights for migrants wishing to return home, and even pledged to help them find jobs on their return.
But some analysts have accused the cronies of capitalising on populist nationalism in Burma, which has been on the rise since the attacks. Hundreds of Facebook users have blacked out their profile photos in a display of solidarity with Burmese Buddhists in Malaysia, while unfounded rumours of genocidal attacks have spread on social media.
Burma’s labour ministry in Malaysia says it is currently negotiating with the authorities to issue passports for unregistered migrants workers. It follows news that 1,000 illegal Burmese migrants were detained by the authorities shortly after the attacks. Malaysia has reportedly encouraged Burma to hasten their return.
“We are looking at issuing passports – not the temporary [migrant] ones but the actual [travel] passports – under a six-step plan recognised by the Malaysian authorities and are going to continue negotiating for that,” said Maung Maung Kyaw from the Burmese labour ministry.
According to statistics by the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, there are around 300,000 Burmese migrants working legally in Malaysia and around 30,000 working illegally.
The labour ministry has also pledged to help returning migrants find jobs in Burma’s private sector.
Khin Nwe Oo, Director of the Labour Ministry’s Employment and Social Welfare Department, told DVB that returning migrants can get application forms for job opportunities in construction or factories from their administration office in Rangoon.
Recently, the ministry announced that over 10,000 Burmese nationals wanted to return home after the attacks. Some 100 Burmese have already been repatriated.