What’s up, Immigration?

What’s up, Immigration?

What's up, Immigration?

MALAYSIA’S Immigration Department seems to be in deep slumber. Despite many wake-up calls by ministers and the media, it continues to let queues form at its counters. The latest malady is a two-hour wait for incoming travellers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

After hours on a flight, a 120-minute wait must have felt like an eternity. Why this eternal problem, we ask those who helm the Immigration Department. Don’t just point to the counters. The issue is in the headquarters. Things fall apart because the centre isn’t holding them together.

How could it when the department announces to the world its vision thus: “A world-class immigration management towards 2022”. Trivialising troubles? No, a year behind, is still behind. What was world-class last year isn’t world-class anymore.

To be brutally frank, even by last year’s standards, the two-hour wait at the KLIA is deserving of a listing in the Hall of Shame. Just out of curiosity, doesn’t anyone in the Immigration Department read its own website?

Back to the headquarters where the issue bank is. Start with leadership. We will be the first to say that running the Immigration Department isn’t easy. But which job is? There are jobs which are easier, but none that is easy. Long queues are symptoms of buried problems. To ask people to not complain about long queues because they happen elsewhere, as the director-general did in the recent past, encourages the department to conceal problems, not cure them.

Good leadership, especially of one of the most public of all public services, demands a set of skills. One such is being media friendly, if not being media savvy. To be truthful, we find this wanting. Queues or no queues, we have tried reaching the D-G, but an impenetrable wall stands between the media and the man.


To be honest, we thought the problem was us. But it turns out the department has a media problem. Public service means going public whenever it is necessary. A two-hour wait makes going public necessary. People have a right to know what went wrong and what is being done to make it right.

Manpower seems to be an issue, too. If Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing is right, it is an old one. If so, why the delay? We put it down as a case of one ministry not liaising with the other. It is not like we don’t have the money.

Only that we lose it to corruption. Not to mention the millions wasted on mega projects. And it is not like we don’t have people to staff the department, either. According to data published by the Department of Statistics, there were 196,000 graduates looking for employment in 2021. Add to this the tens of thousands of underemployed graduates. The Immigration Department can’t say it isn’t spoilt for choice.

The department’s system isn’t helping, either. Last month, its online registration system crashed, sending people to snaking queues at its counters throughout the country.

The department blamed it on the sudden deluge of passport applications. Granted, digital glitches do happen, but what the department does when the system collapses says a lot about its readiness for such things.

To us, the Immigration Department needs a skilled shepherd. The flock may not be brave enough to say it, but the folks are giving voice to it: Reimagine the Immigration Department.

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What’s up, Immigration?



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