Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visa-free status in Britain at risk, no thanks to ‘critical level’ of overstayers

Wednesday December 16, 2009

Visa-free status in Britain at risk, no thanks to ‘critical level’ of overstayers


LONDON: Malaysia looks set to be included in the list of countries whose citizens require visas to enter Britain beginning 2011.

Malaysian Deputy High Commissioner Datuk Rustam Yahaya said the number of overstayers had reached a “critical level” following a situation update by the British Home Office a week ago.

He said the numbers remained “largely the same or could have even gone up” since Malaysia managed to retain its visa-free status early this year.

Based on the current trend, he said British authorities were likely to impose visa requirements on Malaysians travelling to Britain.

“We are likely to be hit this time,” he said in an interview here.

Earlier this year, Malaysia and five other countries passed the “visa-waiver test”, which allowed their nationals to continue visiting and remaining in Britain without a visa for up to six months.

However in February this year, British High Commissioner to Malaysia Boyd McCleary warned that Britain reserved the right to review Malaysia’s visa-free status “from time to time” despite it having passed the test.

Rustam said the only way for Malaysia to retain its visa-free status for Malaysians was for it to take immediate steps to address the issue of overstayers.

“We have only one year to resolve the problem. Otherwise, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.”

There are an estimated 20,000 Malaysians overstaying in Britain.

Rustam said there was nothing to prevent Malaysians from overstaying and working illegally in Britain and this had contributed to the high number of such cases.

He said some kind of modalities were needed to prevent non-genuine travellers, especially first-timers, from coming to Britain.

Although the British Border Agency had deported about 500 Malaysians during the first 10 months of this year, he said the number was nothing compared to those coming here.

“One jumbo jet can easily take 500 people but there are many more flying here every day,” he said.

If the visa rule is implemented, Malaysians will have to pay RM1,200 in processing fees – which is non-refundable even if the visa application is unsuccessful.

No comments: