Muhammad Shafqat Ali, a 17-year-old Singaporean teenager, was left in tears when forced to walk back on foot via the Johor Causeway after he was allegedly denied entry into Malaysia to meet his mother.
“Initially, I was very excited and hopeful about meeting my mother after three months,” Muhammad told Free Malaysia Today (FMT).
Excitement soon turned into despair when Malaysian immigration officers restricted him from entering Malaysia on 25 June 2020, stating that Muhammad had not undergone a test for COVID-19.
Denied Entry at JB checkpoint
He was still rejected despite written confirmation from the Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Centre in Putrajaya to allow him to undergo a swab test for COVID-19 upon arrival in Malaysia.
The email also stated that the “procedure applied to MM2H participants as well”, with guidelines to be adhered to.
The MM2H programme allows foreigners to stay in Malaysia for a period of 10 years (renewable) with a multiple-entry social visit pass. Applicants, however, have to fulfil certain criteria.
According to FMT, Muhammad was not able to get screened for COVID-19 in Singapore as the country only conducts tests for healthy individuals.
Denied entry at JB checkpoint: “I was very sad and I was crying, but I knew I had to continue walking across the Causeway. I couldn’t stay by the road the whole time,” said Muhammad. | Photo: Taxi Singapore
Willing to Adhere to Guidelines to See Mother
In order to meet his mother whom he had not seen in three months, Muhammad said he was willing to bear the costs for testing in Malaysia, adhere to the 14-day quarantine restrictions and other measures mandated by the government.
Muhammad was also given assurance by MM2H that things were in order prior to travel to Malaysia—only to be let down at the border.
“Everything seemed to be in order and I had multiple confirmations (from MM2H) that I could cross, even on the day I was travelling. But when the immigration officers said they couldn’t allow me in… I just felt deflated,” he said.
Even the MM2H officer who sent him the confirmation email had spoken to the immigration officer in hopes to convince him, according to Muhammad, but to no avail.
An officer from the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, who happened to be at the border, even explained to Malaysian immigration officers that Singapore does not carry out COVID-19 tests on healthy individuals.
“This shows a lack of communication and cooperation”
The teenager, who has been in Malaysia ever since he was born, returned to Singapore on March 16 to enlist for National Service on March 24.
For Muhammad’s case, he has been in Malaysia ever since his birth due to his father, Shafqat Rustam, being an MM2H participant.
In light of the incident, his father noted poor communication and cooperation between the two sides.
He lamented that there are “a lot more MM2H participants out there” who might be facing a similar situation.
Even so, he considers his son lucky: “He’s fortunate he could walk back. But what about those who fly in?”
Still Wants to Return to Kuala Lumpur
Said Muhammad: “It’s like there is no proper procedure in place. I was very sad and I was crying, but I knew I had to continue walking across the Causeway. I couldn’t stay by the road the whole time.
Despite the “trauma and rejection” Muhammad has faced thus far, his father notes that his son still wants to return to Kuala Lumpur.
“I hope something can be done to help him,” he said.