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Malaysia’s cabinet assigns deportation responsibilities to airlines, overhauling management of ‘Not To Land’ travellers

MALAYSIA — Malaysian Cabinet has agreed that airline companies, instead of a third party company, will handle the deportation process for Not To Land (NTL) travellers, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

Saifuddin said International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules clearly state that airlines have to shoulder the responsibility of providing NTL travellers with food and arrange their travel out of the country.

“Returning this responsibility back to airlines was also in line with Chapter 5 of the Convention on International Aviation set by the ICAO and the Immigration Act 1959/63.

“The Immigration Act also states that airlines should be responsible for these travellers’ deportation.

“The Cabinet today agreed that this process be managed by the airlines and not third parties,” he said at a press conference at the Home Ministry headquarters, today. Also present were Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain, ministry secretary-general Datuk Ruji Ubi and Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh.

Currently, a third-party company, Mono Circle Sdn Bhd, is managing the deportation of NTL travellers.

The decision means that the contract for Mono Circle, which had been appointed by airline companies to handle NTL travellers since February 2015, will have to be terminated.

However, Saifuddin did not say when this would happen, as the cabinet had only just agreed on the policy.

“The decision will allow us to improve our care towards NTL travellers,” he added, noting that the Home Ministry and the Transport Ministry will be holding discussions to follow up on today’s policy decision.

He said the responsibility of managing the termination of the company fell on the Home Affairs Ministry and the Transport Ministry. The cabinet only makes policy decisions.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) recently said it did not appoint the independent company tasked with handling NTL passengers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), and noted that the appointment was done by airlines themselves.

Transport minister Loke Siew Fook recently said the KLIA Airline Operators Committee, a committee of 40 airline operators at KLIA and 26 associates, had appointed the company to handle NTL passengers at KLIA.

The issue came to the spotlight after Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Azam Baki said an agent had purportedly solicited a fee to help a Chinese national after she was allegedly denied entry into Malaysia at KLIA last month, despite having all necessary documentation.

This came after tourism, arts and culture minister Tiong King Sing recently said he had attempted to intervene in the said case, resulting in a commotion with immigration officers at KLIA’s Terminal 1.

Tiong claimed his visit to the airport had exposed a “culture of corruption by a few officials and the chronic abuse of power”. It subsequently led to an MACC investigation.

The MACC has since begun the hunt for a foreigner who acted as an agent asking for RM18,000 to bring in the Chinese national involved through KLIA.

On July 5, Saifuddin had said there might have been “confusion when a person subject to NTL is asked to provide a certain amount of money to purchase a return ticket. This can be mistaken as an immigration officer asking for money”.

NTL notices are issued for various reasons including passport validity, visa issue, criminal history and security concerns, and MAHB said this falls under the purview of the respective airlines and the Immigration Department as specified under ICAO’s Annexe 9 and Act 155 of the Immigration Act.

NTL issued in the first quarter of 2023

Saifuddin said 14,977 travellers were issued NTL notices between January and June this year.

Among them, 423 Chinese travellers were served with a NTL notice from January to June this year due to various reasons including security factors, Saifuddi said.

“(Those issued NTL) were detained between one and seven days, depending on the processes involved,” he said, adding that on average, some 80 NTL notices were issued daily.

He said the travellers were denied entry into Malaysia as they had failed to give satisfactory answers to Immigration officers on basic questions.

“These questions are such as if they have a return ticket home, where they would be staying here and if they have sufficient money during the stay. Also, there was suspicion that they are here to seek jobs while on a social visit pass.

“The number of those who were given the NTL is small compared to 592,490 of them who were allowed entry.

“The NTL was also issued to travellers from Bangladesh and India and the numbers are much higher than Chinese travelers.

“So when the Immigration Department enforces the NTL on a traveler, there is a valid reason for it,” he said.

Only Grade KP41 can determine a traveller’s NTL

On 5 July, Saifuddin Nasution said NTL notices to travellers will only be determined by Immigration officers of Grade KP41 and above with immediate effect, compared to the current practice, which allows KP29 officers to do so.

He said the Home Affairs ministry would also work with MAHB to place more signages at the airport for the convenience of travellers to prepare the relevant documentation for immigration purposes.

He said the ministry would also provide a help desk by placing Immigration officers who can communicate in foreign languages to facilitate travellers.

“Officers who are able to communicate in languages such as Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic to assist with entry and exit matters at international airports will be deployed there immediately,“ he said.

On media reports that the Chinese national implicated in the recent commotion at the KLIA has no exit record so far, Saifuddin said this was inaccurate as the woman had left the country on 4 July.

“Immigration Department records show that she flew out through Shenzen Airlines flight ZH5030 at 8.55 pm on July 4,” he said.

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