Khanusha Shereen Neesha has been separated from her Polish fiancee Tomasz Wilenski since November when she returned to Malaysia.
Khanusha, who works in Poland, has been unable to return to Europe because of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen travel restrictions imposed all over the world.
That spurred her and others in a similar position to start a Love Is Not Tourism Malaysia campaign, urging the government to consider issuing “sweetheart visas” to let the separated families reunite.
“We surpassed 10,000 signatures (yesterday) and I will be sending the petition to the Prime Minister’s Office (today),” said Khanusha.
“The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is also willing to help us.”
“Sweetheart visas” are normal in Europe. Last month, Germany eased its border controls to allow unmarried couples to reunite after months of separation provided they have proof they were in a relationship before the pandemic.
Austria, Norway and Denmark took similar action as Germany earlier.
So did the Netherlands, much to the delight of Alina M, who returned to Malaysia in June.
But, much to her dismay, although she is welcomed back to her adopted home, she is unable to leave Malaysia.
Before returning to Malaysia to visit her elderly mother, she was informed she could easily return to the Netherlands despite Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO).
Three months later, she is stuck at home, missing her partner with whom she is expecting a child.
“I didn’t know I was pregnant went I returned to Malaysia. If I had known, I wouldn’t have left Europe,” said Aliana, who suffers from bipolar disorder.
“I had two miscarriages during my first marriage but this is the first one with my new partner. I’m very emotional and stressed out that I can’t be with him.”
She added her partner has Asperger syndrome and suffers from depression. Being separated for so long is taking its toll and both of them have entertained morbid thoughts during the dark times.
“People forget or ignore the mental anguish those separated from their loved one go through.
“Because of our condition, we both have had dark thoughts,” she said.
“I was confident I could return to Europe after being assured by Malaysian officials it wouldn’t be a problem.”
To make it more frustrating, the Dutch immigration officials have assured her she will be issued a Schengen visa (short stay 90-day visa) when she returns to the Netherlands.
“Because I’m in a registered partnership, I’m allowed into the Netherlands to visit my loved one. It is the same in several other European countries.
“The Dutch immigration officials said once I’m in the country, I can apply for a long-term visa. So I don’t see why Malaysia is making it so difficult to leave when I’m welcomed in the Netherlands.”
She added she is not against the extension of RMCO but there shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all law when it comes to travelling.
“They can open the border in stages or control the number of flights coming in. It is not that hard.
“The government has relaxed the ruling to allow married couples to enter or leave the country, but people like me are in limbo as we have not legally tied the knot under Malaysian law.
“I have written to several ministries to find a solution but have not received a single reply.”
Aliana is not alone.
P. Ramanan and his Czech Republic finacee Hana, were supposed to get married in her homeland on June 6 with the Malaysian reception on Aug 30.
“She flew back in April to prepare for our wedding,” said Ramanan who met Hana when they both were studying at the University of South Wales.
“It has been an emotional, stressful and taxing time not just because we haven’t got married but the pandemic has hit everyone hard.
“As stressful it is for Hana and me, I feel for the others who are separated, especially pregnant women who are away from their husbands and family.”
The good news for Ramanan is that the Czech Republic last month changed its law to allow “third-country nationals, especially visa-free ones, to come to the Czech Republic to visit their partners, provided that several conditions are met”.
The only question is when he will be allowed to leave Malaysia.
“We have been in constant contact with the embassies in Malaysia and the Czech Republic but have been given vague information,” said Ramanan who studied aeronautical engineering while Hana took human resource management.
“The Malaysian government has done a marvellous job controlling the Covid-19 numbers but perhaps they should have done a feasibility study or a repercussion investigation on how closing the border affects Malaysians who have foreign partners,” said Ramanan.
“Certain leeway should be in place. We are not here to break the rules. We hope the government would relax the rules for people with genuine reasons to enter or leave the country.”