More than 300 Burmese migrant workers are in detention following a fresh crackdown by Malaysian authorities against illegal migrants, according to a source close to the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Thiha, who works with the embassy on repatriation of Burmese migrants, said that more than 300 are Burmese nationals among the thousands detained in a sweep that began on 21 January.
Embassy officials have visited the migrants in detention but have not yet decided how to assist them as Malaysian authorities have not yet declared a course of action.
“The Malaysia government has yet to make an announcement about how they will deal with the migrants – we could repatriate the Burmese workers if they can afford plane tickets,” said Thiha, “but we have to wait for word from the Malaysian government.”
Procedures allow Burmese nationals to apply for a “special pass” from the Immigration Bureau to leave Malaysia, if they have verified their identity and citizenship with the Burmese Embassy.
Many Burmese nationals who overstayed their visa terms are now trying to return home; however Malaysian authorities only allow repatriation of 40 Burmese migrants per a week.
Thiha told DVB that the revered Abbott of Sitagu has pledged to sponsor airline tickets for some of the migrants to return to Rangoon later this month.
San Win of Kepong Free Funeral Service Society, a charity that provides services to Burmese migrants in Malaysia, said authorities have lessened operations per request of the Malaysian Chinese Association, one of the major political parties in the country.
“The arrests have stopped for now, but there have been announcements in the newspapers they will start again on 4 February,” said San Win.
There are an estimated 300,000 Burmese migrants in Malaysia, though around 100,000 are thought to have no legal status in the country.