SABAH MAY deport thousands of Filipino refugees after Malaysian lawmakers pressed Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman to repatriate IMM13 card holders to the Philippines.
Malaysia has also refused to recognize the birth right of children of Filipino refugees despite being born there and holder of birth certificate.
Malaysian media reported that Jamman stressed these children are only given IMM13 – a visit pass issued by the Immigration Department to Filipino refugees who escaped to Sabah following unrest in Mindanao during the Marcos administration in the 1970s.
IMM13 holders are allowed only to stay in Sabah and Labuan, but they can seek employment, attend school and get medical services from the government.
Jamman said these children are not considered Malaysians although they have been issued birth certificates. But birth certificates issued to these children are different from Malaysian citizens – they are all with distinctive red color.
Last year, the Sabah Immigration Department suspended a program to accept new applications for IMM13 from children of other IMM13 holders, although in 2014, the Sabah National Registration Department said birth certificates were issued to foreign children born in Sabah for record purposes and to monitor their presence, but they were not considered citizens.
“Sabah has a lot of documents like IMM13 and Sijil Burung-Burung (state-issued documents). So we want to see how to manage all these documents,” Free Malaysia Today quoted Jamman as saying.
“If they are born in Sabah, they are given birth certificates, but this does not make them citizens,” he added.
The Malaysian Insight also quoted Jamman as saying that IMM13 pass holders registered with the Immigration Department form only a fraction of the true migrant population in Sabah. He said the number of migrants is likely larger than reported due to the issuance of fake papers by illegal syndicates and pointed out the problem has become “chronic”.
Former Petagas Assemblyman James Ligunjang said the international community would not tolerate any refusal by the Philippines to accept its own citizens back into the country.
Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah adviser Francis Goh also said Jamman should prioritise Malaysia’s sovereignty. “Nobody should come and stay in Sabah and then later give all sorts of excuses not to leave,” he said.
Many holders of the IMM13 document originally came to Sabah as refugees fleeing the civil unrest in the southern Philippines in the 1970s.
Jamman said that many of these refugees, who are mostly second and third-generation descendants, had no more family ties in the Philippines and preferred to remain in Sabah where they had been since birth.
Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku leader Jeffrey Kitingan said Malaysia and the Philippines have a duty to settle the issue. “Refugees normally come under UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations), and their repatriation should also be discussed with the UN agency,” he said.
Kitingan said the Philippines consulate had also come to Sabah to provide consular service, including the provision of passports and other documents. “Understandably, there may be children or grandchildren of IMM13 holders who prefer to stay in Sabah, but that is not the issue. The issue is IMM13 holders or refugees. The same applies to holders of the Kad Burung-Burung and census cards,” he said.
Many Sabah leaders have been urging the government to repatriate the 1MM13 holders, saying the unrest in the southern Philippines has ended.
There are an estimated 600,000 migrants in Sabah, including dependents or families of the original IMM13, Kad Burung-Burung and census card holders. Passes Sabah is also to issue a temporary pass for foreigners travelling to the rich-Malaysian state in an effort to monitor the movements of outsiders in the territory, according to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who said the issuance of temporary pass is also to ensure that no one could falsify the document.
Sabah has about 500,000 foreigners, mostly working in plantations. Apdal said the Sabah Temporary Pass will be issued to foreigners starting next June.
“We are issuing the Sabah Temporary Pass to ensure that those (foreigners) who work in the plantations and in certain places can be monitored by the Home Affairs Ministry and the Immigration Department. Sabah has close to 500,000 foreigners in Sabah, so it is better for us to monitor them than not to know where they are,” he said in a report by Bernama.
Apdal said there is also a necessity to discuss the system to the Philippine government since many illegal Filipinos working in Sabah had been deported.
The discussion, he said, is to ensure that Filipinos who had been deported should have valid travel documents if they wanted to return to Sabah. He said even the deployment of Indonesian workers to Sabah should also be carefully managed to avoid a labor shortage since the relocation of Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan would attract its citizens there. (Jason Santos – Free Malaysia Today. With additional reports from the Zamboanga Post and Mindanao Examiner.)
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