8 February 2023
ONE of the functions of the Immigration Department is to manage the movement of people at authorised entry and exit points in our country.
The department’s vision is “A World Class Immigration Services Management Towards 2022” while its slogan is “Integrity, Professional and Friendly”. But going by numerous complaints from the public, the vision looks like a pipe dream and the slogan is yet to be translated into action.
Among the most recent complaints was one by a Malaysian traveller who had landed at KLIA with a foreign partner. While the Malaysian was able to clear immigration quite speedily, the partner had to endure a long wait at the foreign passport’s section where there was a huge crowd.
At one stage, according to the Malaysian, an immigration officer got down from his cubicle and started berating those in the queue who had apparently become disorderly. He was said to have shouted: “Form a single line! I said single line! You know what a single line is?” He continued yelling while processing the passports.
Sadly, long queues at the KLIA immigration counters are nothing new. They were common long before the Covid-19 pandemic and are likely to become worse as more international travellers enter Malaysia for both business and leisure activities now and in the future.
In 2021, only 134,728 foreign visitors entered Malaysia. The number shot up to about 9.7 million last year after our international borders were reopened. We could receive 18 million this year, and together with the tens of thousands of Malaysian travelling to and from foreign destinations, this will clearly mean a huge volume of work for immigration officers at our exit/entry points.
Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud announced recently that the new National Integrated Immigration System (NIISe), which will be rolled out within two years, would help slash the waiting period for foreign tourists at airports.
But pending the operation of this system, present-day travellers should not be made to suffer. It is incomprehensible why more immigration counters are not opened whenever there are large crowds.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad could help to alleviate the situation by deploying ushers to assist arriving travellers from the moment they step out of an aircraft and all the way to the immigration counters and perhaps even the baggage carousels.
While waiting to clear immigration, queues could become disorderly as people may be considering switching to another line. Here, ushers could assist by providing advice or information in a friendly and courteous manner. By doing so, they would also create a great first impression of our country.
Training immigration officials on interpersonal communication skills must also be stepped up.
One of the most effective programmes in this context is Mesra Malaysia (MM), a one-day course that was rolled out in 2019 by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020. But as we all know, everything was put on hold because of Covid-19.
If Malaysian citizens, permanent residents and foreign visitors are regarded as customers by the Immigration Department, then its personnel ought to change their attitude.
They should neither lord over the public nor be subservient. Instead, they should learn to truly respect themselves. In doing so, they will automatically respect others.
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