Skift Take

Edward Snowden, believed to be marooned in the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, isn't the only one stuck in an airport transit area. Although their circumstances are much different, the travelers stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport require help, and their plight is evidence of a broken system.

The seven stranded foreigners, who have made the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) transit area their home for over 14 days, should have some help extended to them, said Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Its commissioner James Nayagam said there was an urgent need for the government to coordinate a meeting with the immigration, airport, airlines and embassies to develop a system to assist these people.

“The international community is watching how we handle cases of people fleeing troubled regions and landing on our shores with improper travel documents.

“The crisis is prolonged because nobody wants to be responsible for such cases occurring in the transit area, which is regarded as a no man’s land,” he said.

Nayagam said although the transit area comes under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Airports Holding Bhd (MAHB), it does not have the clout to handle such cases.

“Since there is no coordinated system in place to handle them, the KLIA transit cases have become complex and are being passed around and managed haphazardly with no definite solution,” he said.

He said MAHB should be proactive in handling the matter and not wait for the relevant agencies to act.

Currently, Palestinian national Mohammed Abdulabbad and Khaled Ali from Syria with his family of five have made the transit zone their home while they await news of their travel documents.

Abdulabbad, 26, has been sleeping in the transit lounge since July 1 and wants to return to his home in Gaza while Khaled, who arrived on July 3, wants to travel to Sweden to provide medical care for his ailing son.

Abdulabbad is stranded because he does not have a visa to fly to Egypt while Khaled and his family are there because they have lost their passports.

“These people deserve the right to be protected, provided with medical and welfare care and must not be left abandoned.

“Someone (an authority or agency) should take responsibility and this will be the humane way of handling the issue which has been receiving unwanted international attention,” said Nayagam.

He said the issue had exposed weaknesses in the airport system and there must be a structure in place immediately because more people were expected to arrive here from countries in turmoil.

“People fleeing countries in conflict must not be deported back and must be assisted to find a new destination,” he said.

Nayagam said Malaysia should look at how Australia and other countries in the region handle such issues and formulate a similar system. ___

November 16, 2022
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