Malaysia rejects Middle East tourist visa proposal

Proposal to impose visa requirements on Middle Eastern tourists had been suggested to curb extremism in country

Malaysia rejects Middle East tourist visa proposal

World Bulletin / News Desk

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 extremism-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 ISIL continues to wage a bloody campaign of extreme -- 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 extremism-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 extrem 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 extremists 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 extremism-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 extremist attack by ISIL -- a grenade explosion in an entertainment center in capital Kuala Lumpur the week before.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Temmuz 2016, 13:48