Many left confused and unsure what to do next

Second home: Wanji selling handicraft items at a Sunday market at Hin Bus Depot in George Town.— LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Friends and family members of foreigners who are in Penang on social visit passes are in the dark over instructions by their respective embassies telling them to leave the country before April 21.

Most of them expressed shock and described the matter as confusing as they had not been briefed about the latest guideline.

A Japanese expatriate, who only wanted to be known as Osaki, said his 89-year-old mother, who has a social visit pass, had been staying with him in Tanjung Bungah since January last year.

“So far, the Japanese embassy has not informed us of any new development. I check my email daily, but there’s nothing there about the ruling, ” he said when met here yesterday.

Osaki said he had lived in Malaysia for the past 25 years and had a work permit.

He said he was unable to renew his mother’s social visit pass when the movement control order was implemented last year, adding that since then, he was clueless about what to do next.

Osaki also said his mother’s old age made her return trip more difficult as the Covid-19 pandemic meant it was too risky for senior citizens to travel.

“I hope the Malaysian Immigration Department can provide clear guidelines on the matter.

“I also hope more leeway can be given to senior citizens like my elderly mother until the situation improves, ” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia student Paige Wanji, 25, from Kenya, expressed shock when she was told of the ruling.

“I have church friends from Canada, the United States and several European countries who have been here on social visit passes since last year. This ruling will be hard on them, ” she said.

Paige said many of them told her of the problems they faced when trying to renew their passes since the pandemic hit last year.

“Some of them are unable to make their trip as there are insufficient flights to their respective countries.

“They are also not sure what to do next, ” she said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani honorary consul-general to Penang Datuk Seri Abdul Rafique Karim said a notification of the instruction had been sent to all Pakistanis here on social visit passes and work permits that had expired since early this month.

He said the notification was sent out by the Pakistani High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to its citizens here.

“We can merely advise them on making proper flight arrangements to return to their country to avoid being punished by the Malaysian Immigration Department, ” he said.

An American national, who only wished to be known as Sally, 66, said she hoped that her social pass could be extended for her to make the necessary plans while waiting for international borders to formally reopen.

“I am in Malaysia on a social pass but have not been able to renew it since Malaysia closed its borders under the movement control order last year.

“In fact, I have not left Penang since February last year.

“I wanted to apply for the Malaysia My Second Home programme in Sarawak and corresponded with the authorities in September last year.

“I had all the documents ready and even bought a flight ticket so that I could go to Kuching to hand in my application.

“Unfortunately, interstate travel was not allowed and my plans were disrupted, ” she said.

Sally, who cares for 300 cats as a volunteer at an animal shelter in Penang, said she would be at high risk to travel as she has chronic asthma and inflammatory disease.

“I prefer to stay in Malaysia as the weather here is good for my condition.

“I am also trying to find other suitable countries where I could temporarily stay.

“I received an email from the US Embassy in Malaysia, stating that I have until April 21 to leave the country or risk being fined or detained.

“I obtained a teaching job offer at a university in Thailand but could not go as the borders are still closed.

“I am hoping for alternatives, but may end up flying back to New York to be with my family there.

“I will definitely miss my cats here. I may no longer be able to contribute to the animal shelter as the money I have would be used for my travelling and starting life anew there, ” she said.

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