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Published: Tuesday January 12, 2010 MYT 7:46:00 PM

Almost 40,000 Indian nationals 'missing' in Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: A total of 39,046 Indian citizens are “missing” in Malaysia after their tourist visas expired and it is a worrying issue for the country, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said on Tuesday.

The prime minister said they had gone missing from the Immigration Department’s records, according to an estimate drawn up in June last year.

That was why the department was not keen on visa-on-arrival for Indians as the facility had been abused, especially by those from Chennai, he said.

“These people who came to Malaysia through the visa-on-arrival facility, could be back in India or be among people here... (maybe) working in the Indian restaurants.

“We just don’t know where these people are now... probably still in Malaysia for economic reasons,” he said in a interview with visiting Indian journalists at his office here yesterday.

Najib indicated that he might take up the issue during his three-day official visit to India, beginning Jan 19. The prime minister said Malaysia had been quite liberal in allowing priests and barbers from India to come and work in the country.

“We would like the Indian people to visit Malaysia as tourists. We have been quiet liberal. We want genuine ones. They are most welcome.

“We are willing to consider reintroducing the visa scheme for people coming from cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi but not from Chennai. The problem of overstaying is only from Chennai, he said.

Asked whether the government would hold any dialogue with the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), Najib said many people had realised that the group had “really exaggerated and manipulated the whole situation” of the ethnic Indian minority.

He said that most Indians in the country wanted the government to be sensitive to their needs and the government had been responsive.

“We have attended to a lot of the Indian problems and I don’t see that Hindraf has been an important force in Malaysian politics,” he said.

Asked on the move by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to appoint a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir, Najib said any follow-up action would be possible only if India and Pakistan were agreeable.

“Malaysia feels that the issue should be settled through peaceful negotiations,” he added. - Bernama

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