IIUM Allegedly Withholding Passports & Delaying Visas Of Over 300 International Students
Following the public outcry, IIUM released a statement today, 18 July, stating that they will work with the respective authorities to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
The passports of over 300 international students from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) have not been returned allegedly due to a major delay in the visa renewal process
In a statement on Twitter today, 18 July, IIUM's student union addressed the issue and voiced its concerns as well as its demands for the authorities to resolve the problem.
Based on the tweet and several accounts of affected foreign students shared with SAYS, there had been no updates from the university's visa unit, even after multiple complaints.
There have also been claims of rude and unprofessional remarks made by the staff of the department when approached by the students.
"This issue will certainly create a negative impact on the university's image in the coming years if necessary measures are not taken immediately, especially concerning future intake of international students," it wrote in the post.
The group told this SAYS writer that it wants the visa unit, IIUM's administration, the Malaysian immigration department, and the Education Malaysians Global Services (EMGS) to prioritise and resolve the issue.
Some students are believed to have been waiting for the return of their passports since December 2021
A few of them told SAYS that the IIUM visa unit allegedly said the immigration rules were changed in April 2022, causing the delay.
However, students are doubtful of this statement because those who had applied for their visas prior to April still have not received their visas and passports.
According to Sinar Daily, a student named Burhan posted in a Facebook group saying that he had been threatened by the university staff when he inquired about his visa.
"'Do you want dismissal? I will show you the legal unit. All the people of your country are like this. Go back to your country.' These were among the sentences used by [the] visa unit to greet the international students," Burhan was reported as saying.
The foreign students were unable to go back home for family emergencies and they were also unable to celebrate Raya with their family
A student who goes by the pseudonym Ahmed, told SAYS that there were students who had been staying without their passports for more than a year.
"Me, myself, have been staying without [a] passport for more than four months now and cannot go back home for [a] family emergency," he added.
Abdullah, not his real name, had applied for his visa renewal before its expiry date on 17 April. However, a visa officer told him that he needed to apply for a special pass, which would allow him to overstay for a month, before they proceed with a student pass.
When Abdullah told the officer that he was short on time as he had family problems to attend to, the man allegedly responded rudely to him.
"He (the officer) said to me, 'We don't wanna hear about that. It's not our work'," he added.
Matters seemed to get more complicated when he went to his home country's embassy for help. The embassy told him that the IIUM visa unit and the Malaysian immigration department's responses allegedly did not tally.
When he brought this up with the school management, they said that students were not allowed to interfere between the visa office and the Malaysian immigration department.
Another international student, who goes by the pseudonym of Fareez, was told he would get his passport back after Raya Aidiladha, but until now he has yet to receive it.
With the delay in renewing visas, IIUM's international students are facing financial issues
A Bangladeshi student, who goes under the alias of Ameena, told SAYS that she is unable to open a bank account without a passport and her parents are not able to send her money because of this.
Abdullah and Fareez said that because they are staying longer, they are worried about paying for their accommodation and food.
Abdullah has already graduated but is not able to obtain a job due to the visa issue.
"We have friends who had to cancel their internships due to this condition," he said.
Moreover, Abdullah also said that each student has to pay RM140 for the special pass, and now the university's management has to pay RM1,100 for each overstayed student.
He also added, "So it's a burden (to) the budget of IIUM due to the mistake [of the] visa office."
The university also does not provide financial aid to international students who have had to prolong their stay in the country.
Muar Member of Parliament (MP) Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who is an IIUM alumni, took to Twitter to express his disappointment in regards to this issue
He called the situation "appalling" and said he stands in solidarity with those affected.
Meanwhile, immigration lawyer and activist Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna pointed out that withholding their passports without consent is illegal according to the law.
Sumitha cited Section 12 of the Passport Act 1996, which prohibits the possession of another person's passport without their consent.
She added that the university should be transparent with the students regarding their visa renewal and provide a deadline for when it will be resolved, especially if they are holding the students' passports while their visa is being renewed, she told Sinar Daily.
"What happens if a student is detained because they lack the necessary documentation? Will the university accept accountability?" she said.
She also noted that the university should provide students with a letter so that they can present it to any authorities who request their documentation.
Following the public outcry, IIUM released a statement today, 18 July, stating that they will work with the respective authorities to resolve the issue as soon as possible