Families are the most essential building blocks of societies. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent international travel restrictions have kept many individuals away from their family members over the past 2 years.

As new waves of Covid-19 keep emerging, the number of people who are not able to travel back to their loved ones keeps increasing. These increasing numbers of individuals and their associated anxiety of separation from their spouses gave rise to the global ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ movement in 2020. The objective of ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ is to fight for the reunification of family units that are split due to international travel bans.

Family reunification is the key to a safe and healthy mindset, which is critical for a country’s citizens to maintain, for successful and sustainable development of its economy. Nations that strive for sustainable development not only need to consider the economic aspect of it, but also embrace the fundamental human and ethical dimension of keeping families intact.

For people to be productive, they need an environment to live where ethical values are experienced in a natural way. Family units play a major role in this. Spouses provide material and non-material care to each other. Parents instill values of citizenship and belonging in their children.

Further to that, reuniting families leads to a reduction in the risks of mental illness, domestic violence, and other unhealthy means of living. That is why the principle of family unity is acknowledged and protected under international law, and supported amongst others by International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In practice, when individuals go through prolonged separation from their spouses and children, it hurts their state of mental well-being, which in turn makes it difficult for the society to thrive. 

The ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ community of Malaysia comprises over 8,000 individuals who are suffering in this situation. The greatest obstacle they are facing in reuniting with their loved ones is the MyTravelPass scheme, which was introduced by the Malaysian government in October, 2020, with the good intent of curbing the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The suffering of these individuals has come to the point that social media outbursts regarding this subject are now being observed on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These individuals are raising their collective voice to be heard by the relevant authorities.

‘Will today be the day when my MTP gets approved?’ Thousands of people who have a spouse in Malaysia wake up with this thought every morning.

90% of Malaysia’s adult population is now fully vaccinated. Therefore, it does make sense for Malaysian immigration to approve the MTP applications of all these individuals. There is a dire need of reuniting spouses with each other and young children with their parents, for maintaining a healthy and peaceful society.

The foreign spouses of Malaysians who are stranded overseas are more than willing to abide by all the SOPs established by the Malaysian government, to prevent becoming the carrier of the coronavirus disease when they enter the country. Thus the risk of these individuals bringing the coronavirus into Malaysia is very minimal.

We hope and pray that all the loved ones of Malaysian citizens can be reunited soon.