Passport disruptions expected until mid-June

From a matter of hours, it can now take up to a week for passports to be issued and with the school holidays starting, the frustration is expected to reach boiling point. — AFP pic
From a matter of hours, it can now take up to a week for passports to be issued and with the school holidays starting, the frustration is expected to reach boiling point. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 ― The rash of service disruptions resulting in delayed issuance of passports at Immigration Department counters in the country is expected to continue until mid-June, said sources in the department.

What started about a week ago as part of the department’s “routine maintenance”, has caused much frustration among the public, especially those with travel plans.

From a matter of hours, it can now take up to a week for passports to be issued and with the school holidays starting, the frustration is expected to reach boiling point.

“There are teething problems with the international Malaysian passports fitted with the polycarbonate chips. We expect the problems to be resolved by mid-June at the earliest.

“However, this is just one of several issues, including an over-burdened operating system used on the department’s computers,” said the source.

The source said the department was working to quickly iron out the issues after the department was criticised following a Malay Mail report that exposed its flawed Malaysian Immigration System (myIMMs).

“There has been bad press over myIMMs and alleged security lapses. The department’s personnel have come under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.”

Last week, sources also told Malay Mail that the system used by the department to process passport and visa applications were installed in 1997 and was prone to breakdowns.

“It is old, outdated and incapable of meeting current requirements.

“In the past, we did not have to handle biometric data at entry points but now we do. The additional data is over-burdening the operating system,” a source said.

The breakdowns had affected several immigration counters at the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) in Johor Baru, Sentul, Ipoh, Kajang and Seberang Jaya between last Friday and Sunday, said a notice on the department’s website on May 19.

A notice yesterday announced another round of disruptions at the UTCs in Alor Star, Sungai Petani, Pahang and Malacca, bringing the total to seven states affected within a week.

Sources claimed the systems were not just undergoing normal maintenance but a lot more due to its age.

At the Immigration Department office in Jalan Duta yesterday, more than 100 people were seen waiting for their documents, including people who had returned several times to collect their passports.

An officer said there had been disruptions and that efforts had been made to notify the public.

“We posted it on our website and told those who called in to check on the status of their applications that there would be a delay.

“We do not want to inconvenience the public and we understand their frustration over the delays. I understand some changes will be made to our systems but we do not have details yet,” he said, adding the department had not kept track of the number of those affected by the disruptions.

He said the office processed up to 1,000 applications a day and this could double during holidays.

“We believe we will be able to cope,” he said.

Asked if operations had been affected by the ongoing investigations into allegations of sabotage affecting myIMMS, he said he was not aware of any of his colleague being probed by the authorities or of any changes to their operations.

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