7 November 2016
Travellers’ failure to check their status before leaving the country is adding strain to the overburdened check-in system at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
The Immigration Department, in explaining the recent delays at the country’s main gateway, said those who were unaware that they had been blacklisted were significantly contributing to the long queue at the Immigration eGate counters.
Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said the department had been approached by a growing number of agencies, including the Malaysia Insolvency Department, National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) and Inland Revenue Board (IRB), to stop those with unsettled payments from leaving the country.
“The names of these individuals will be placed in the Suspected List (SL), which is growing every year.
“Our eGate system will go through the database and those whose names are in the SL will be denied boarding. The eGate system will not provide details on why they cannot leave the country.
“Instead, they will be directed to the manned counters and given the contact numbers of related agencies to resolve their problem,” he told the New Straits Times.
This newspaper recently joined Mustafar in one of his many “visits” to the airport.
He said those blacklisted would normally end up missing their flights if they failed to resolve their problem.
This, he said, were among the reasons why the department wanted the related agencies to establish a helpdesk at the airport to deal with blacklisted travellers.
In order to expedite the check-in process, Mustafar said the Immigration Department, following discussions with vendors, was considering to install a set of “screening” devices for travellers to check their status before going through the eGates.
The devices, which are currently being tested, would stop those being blacklisted from proceeding and causing a backlog. Alternatively, the public can also check their travel status on the Immigration Department’s website.
The SL, which was revealed to the NST, showed a colossal increase of more than 250,000 individuals from last year.
Of the 707,304 individuals barred from leaving the country, those with outstanding PTPTN loans made up the bulk at 261,833. The number had increased more than four-fold from last year.
Those with outstanding payments to the Malaysia Insolvency Department made up the second-highest group with 212,927 people, while IRB ranked the third, with 128,187 individuals barred from exiting.
On another note, Mustafar said the public’s failure to properly position the new passport onto the eGate scanner had led to multiple system failures.
The security chip in new passports is embedded in front, as opposed to the old version, where it was on the back page.
“Previously, they could place their passports backwards and the system could still read them. But now, they have to open their books and place them properly onto the scanner.
“Most of them do not comply with the new requirements. They do not open their passports and, as a result, the system cannot read their particulars in the chip.”
The new International Civil Aviation Organisation-standard passports come with enhanced security features. Details, including the photo of the passport holder, would be imprinted on the page using laser technology. This, among others, is a measure to prevent forgery.
Immigration security and passport division director Datuk Mohd Zulfikar Ahmad said the department would fit the eGate system with a “passport casing” to minimise contact with the eGate reader’s surface, which is highly sensitive.
“The reader’s surface is very sensitive, so it is better not to touch the passport after placing it on the eGate, or it will be difficult for the system to read the chip.
“We will put a casing there where the public can slip in their passports and wait for it to be read without repositioning the book.”
Zulfikar said despite media reports of the public outcry over “faulty” new passports, no complainants had come forward to have their passports checked.
“So far, we’ve received only comments, none had come forward to have their passports checked.
“They need to check their passports as soon as possible and we will replace them for free if they are indeed faulty,” he said, adding that more than 1.1 million of the new passports had been issued since May.
Mustafar said Datasonic Group Bhd, which supplied the security chips, had noted that 0.24 per cent of its chips delivered to passport printer Percetakan Nasional Bhd were rejected for being faulty.
“The number could be small for some, but when we are talking about passports, it should be zero per cent. Imagine the difficulties travellers would face if their passport chips cannot be read while overseas.
“We will not compromise on this. We have discussed with Datasonic and it has, among others, agreed to place their personnel at the airport.”
Hundreds of travellers had faced difficulties at the Immigration counters of KLIA and klia2 since June. The situation would worsen during peak hours.
During the most recent glitch that hit KLIA on Oct 10, disgruntled travellers took to social media to express their disappointment over the backlog. Following news reports, Mustafar, in an immediate response, said he had instructed that all counters be manned at all times.