She has passport. She has work permit. But Johor Baru immigration says...
No employer No entry
Maid travels to JB with employer's family. Employer not with her
By Celine Lim
The Electric New Paper
Work permit? Check.
Employer not here?
Then sorry, your domestic maid cannot enter Malaysia.
At first, the Singaporean family thought it was an April Fool's Day joke.
But the immigration officer at the Johor Baru Checkpoint was serious.
Indonesian maid Sugiyanti, 26, was on a day-trip to Johor Baru with her employer's family on 1 Apr when she was refused entry.
The problem? Her employer, Madam Azizah Tawil, 51, a housewife, was not phyiscally with her.
That morning, maid and employer had ended up in different cars.
Madam Azizah was in one car with her husband and other relatives.
Ms Sugiyanti was in another car with her employer's daughter, Madam Maisara, 24, a civil servant, and others.
ASKED TO ENTER OFFICE
Madam Maisara had set off from Woodlands and got to the checkpoint first.
Madam Azizah made several stops after setting off from Kembangan to top up petrol and pick up several other passengers.
They decided that Sugiyanti would travel in Madam Maisara's car so she could help keep an eye on the children in her car.
But both parties were all supposed to meet after clearing Malaysian immigration.
The car Madam Maisara was in arrived at the checkpoint around 12.30pm. She said a Malaysian immigration officer asked them to pull over after inspecting their passports.
She and Ms Sugiyanti were asked to enter the office.
Madam Maisara's husband and two young children waited in the car.
She claimed the officer told her that it was the law that maids have to travel with their employers.
She said: 'I was shocked to hear this as we'd taken Sugiyanti to JB with us twice and there were no problems.
'I was so taken aback that I didn't think of telling them that my mum, the maid's employer, was in another car.'
Ms Sugiyanti had previously travelled with Madam Maisura's family to JB on 26 Dec and 10 Mar. On both trips, Madam Azizah was not with her.
Madam Maisura said asked the immigration officer when the law was passed.
'First, I was told that the law was passed 'a long time back'.
'But when I said I had no problems when Sugiyanti travelled with us the last two times, the officer said the law was passed 'a few months ago'.
'And finally, when I gave the date of our last trip together to JB, the officer said the law was passed on 9 Mar,' she said.
Madam Maisura said her questioning riled the five immigration officers who were then in the office.
She claimed they shouted at her, saying the previous trips, when the maid entered JB without her employer, were 'mistakes'.
She admitted to raising her voice too after that.
Madam Maisura was then told to send the maid back to Singapore if her family wanted to go on to JB. She decided to turn back.
While she filled out some forms, her husband was asked to drive in, make a U-turn and return to the departure lane of the checkpoint.
She said: 'The officers made rude comments as I filled out the paperwork they gave me. I didn't answer because I didn't want to create trouble.
'But how can they promote tourism when their front-line staff are so rude?'
An hour had passed by the time they returned to the car.
She then called her parents and told them what had happened.
As they had not yet cleared Singapore immigration, they decided to cancel their JB trip as well.
Madam Maisura said: 'I used to go to Malaysia once a week to shop and eat as I live in Woodlands. After this, I won't go back for a year at least.'
When contacted, an Immigration Department of Malaysia spokesman said it is 'not actually a requirement' for a maid to be with her employer to enter Malaysia.
The spokesman said: 'This is an additional procedure agreed upon on a departmental level.
'It is intended to ensure that maids do not abuse their work permit and passport by going into Malaysia and committing immigration offences.'
He said no statistics are kept on such offences as they are 'rare'.
He also said the Immigration Department of Malaysia encourages maids to travel with their employers.
'If the checkpoint officers are suspicious about the maid's intentions, they can ask questions,' he said.
'And if they are not satisfied with the answers, Immigration reserves the right to refuse entry to the maid.'
In this case, the spokesman said that if Madam Maisura had explained that the employer was in another car, there would have been 'no problem'.
He added that the JB checkpoint has since confirmed that a maid will be allowed to enter Malaysia without her employer if she has her passport and work permit.