KOTA KINABALU: The immigration transborder counters at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here will be repositioned to prevent foreign tourists bypassing immigration clearance checking when arriving in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the KKIA management and Sabah Immigration Department would submit proposal for the repositioning to the stateTourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry next week.
“This is the solution we came up after touring the airport structural layout to get better understanding on the immigration issue faced by tourists, particularly from China.
“This is a long standing issue in Sabah where Chinese tourists sometimes come in without getting their passport stamped and they go straight to domestic transit without immigration clearance.
“There have been several incidents of Chinese tourists facing problems when they are about to leave the state via KKIA and get detained by immigration officers,” she told reporters after making her rounds at KKIA today.
Also present were Consul-General of China in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide, KKIA senior manager Sunif Naiman, and representatives from Sabah Immigration Department.
During the tour, Liew, who is also minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, and Liang were briefed by Sunif on the airport structural layout following confusion and immigration issues faced by Chinese tourists.
In December last year, Liang brought up the matter with Liew after four Chinese tourists, including a pregnant woman, were arrested at the airport.
They were about to leave the state when immigration officers inspected their passports and found them to be without entry stamping by the Immigration authorities.
Liew said Sabah expected to receive more Chinese tourists next month as compared to the 80,000 Chinese tourists arrival in February 2018.
“We are expecting a large number of Chinese tourists to visit Sabah next month as it is Chinese New Year and spring time.
“Hence, we want to look into entry process of tourists (from international flight) and how they can transfer to domestic flight smoothly without immigration problem.
“We are also looking into putting up more signages in Chinese so tourists will know where to go when transiting,” she said.
Meanwhile, Liang said he seldom sees such problem in other airports, and thanked the Ministry, KKIA management, and state Immigration Department for giving serious attention to the matter.
From November to December last year, he said they recorded eight cases involving 28 tourists, adding the transborder immigration was a new issue.
“In the past, similar problem happened but it involved only missing immigration chop when entering Kota Kinabalu. This time, it happened during transit procedure from international flights to domestic flight, including transit to the peninsular,” he said.