Malaysia’s government has quashed a proposal by its National Security Council (NSC) to impose visa restrictions on Middle Eastern tourists, as a way to curb the inflow of terrorism-related elements into the country.
Holders of passports issued by 58 countries are currently granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 90 days, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.
Visitors from Iraq and Syria, however — where Daesh continues to wage a bloody campaign of terror — are granted 30 days visa-free entry, while Iranians are given 14-days.
The ministerial meeting chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak rejected the proposal Tuesday, in the belief that terrorism-related activities in Malaysia could be controlled by better enforcement, and not by enabling visa restrictions.
Malaysia’s Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said that the cabinet discussed the council’s proposal in detail, including the country’s bilateral ties with Middle East countries.
He also said ministers had agreed that visa restrictions can only be implemented with mutual consensus with the Middle East countries.
“Imposing visas involve bilateral agreements. Malaysia must first hold discussions with the respective countries,” Aziz told a press conference in capital Kuala Lumpur.
The minister said the cabinet rejected the proposal after taking into consideration four main factors, along with agreeing that terror threats are an issue that involves national safety and not visa issuance.
“Therefore, it is vital that we tighten security in the country and at our borders instead of imposing a new ruling such as visas for Middle Eastern tourist,” he said.
Aziz added that terrorists can originate from many parts of the world, and as such it would be unfair to penalize Middle Eastern countries.
“If we were to look at our visa policy, it should be in its entirety, not just focused on the Middle East alone… that would not be fair. Malaysia has also no intention of jeopardizing the good diplomatic relationships we have with these countries,” he added.
Last week, NSC secretary Alias Ahmad said that the council would propose that the government consider imposing visa requirements for Middle Eastern tourists coming into Malaysia, to avoid the free flow of terrorism-related individuals or elements into the country.
The NSC is chaired by the prime minister and encompasses the deputy prime minister, defense minister, home minister and chiefs of the country’s police and military forces.
On July 4, police confirmed the country’s first terrorist attack by Daesh — a grenade explosion in an entertainment center in capital Kuala Lumpur the week before.
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