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Tighter rules against Malaysians who lose passports “habitually”

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian government plans to be stricter with citizens who lose their passports repeatedly, by imposing heavier replacement fees, shorter validity periods and the compulsory declaration of travel plans before departing Malaysia - effectively placing such individuals on the “watch list” database.

Tighter rules against Malaysians who lose passports “habitually”

In the first eight months of this year, 52,459 Malaysian passports had been reported stolen or missing – almost 10 passports lost every hour. Photo: New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian government plans to be stricter with citizens who lose their passports repeatedly, by imposing heavier replacement fees, shorter validity periods and the compulsory declaration of travel plans before departing Malaysia - effectively placing such individuals on the “watch list” database.

Immigration Department director-general Mustafar Ali revealed that fines for lost passports would be enforced before year-end. The department, he said, was updating its system to facilitate this.

If there are no changes to the proposed fines, those who lose their passport for the first time will be fined RM200 (S$64.35). The second time it happens, it will be RM500. It is RM1,000 after.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, said on Tuesday that Malaysian passports made up a significant portion of the 76 million passports worldwide that had been reported stolen or missing.

In the first eight months of this year, 52,459 Malaysian passports had been reported stolen or missing – almost 10 passports lost every hour.

When asked on the matter of those who habitually lose their passports, Mr Mustafar would only say that a certain “sanction” would be imposed on passport holders who frequently lose the document.

Those applying for a new passport after losing theirs will be “investigated” by the Immigration Department, he said. This is how the department establishes if the applicant had been careless, or that there had been other “suspicious” circumstances behind the new application.

He pointed out that the chances of a stolen passport being reused, however, is low as Malaysia has the biometric system in place.

“Even if a person tries to change the details on a stolen passport, it will not match the biometric records. It is like DNA; the biometric system is the passport’s DNA,” he said.

“Once a passport is reported lost, it will be cancelled and removed from the system immediately to prevent abuse,” he added.

The Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database would be alerted to any lost Malaysian passports. This would facilitate the immediate cancellation and blacklisting of the documents.

Malaysian passports issued for a fee of RM200 are valid for five years. It has been reported that stolen Malaysian passports could fetch between RM100,000 and RM250,000 each on the black market. They are sought-after as the Malaysian passport has been tagged as the fourth most powerful in the world -along with those from Austria, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland - for providing its holders visa-free access to 156 countries.

Mr Mustafar said the new measures were not meant to punish but to remind Malaysians to be more responsible with their passports.

“There are those who lose it for the fourth time. It makes me wonder how this is possible,” he said. “I asked one of them if he had turned this [losing his passport] into his hobby,” he said, adding that the enforcement of “restrictions” was partly a “precautionary measure” in case they lose the document again. NEW STRAITS TIMES

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