KOTA KINABALU: NGO Angkatan Perpaduan Sabah (APS) has urged the Federal and State Governments to be more firm and courageous in tackling and resolving the problem of illegal immigrants (PATI) including the Philippine war refugees in Sabah and therefore fulfilled its state election manifesto’s promise.

APS Vice President, Paul Kadau, in making this call, also suggested that the same approach used in solving the problem of the Vietnamese war refugees presence in Malaysia previously be applied as a solution to the presence of Filipino refugees in Sabah, those who holds the IMM13, Burung-Burung and Census cards.

He said if the problem of Vietnamese refugees totalling 250,000 people in Peninsular Malaysia could be solved previously, why the problem of Filipino refugees in Sabah which is said to number less than that, which is only 136,055, could not be resolved.

“Majority of the people in Sabah want these 136,055 Filipino refugees to be sent back to their country of origin or sent to a third country with the help of UNHCR, like what was done to Vietnamese refugees before.

“The people of Sabah have demonstrated their stand on this matter in the recent state election. The new Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) State Government surely do not want to ends up becoming a half-term government like the previous government, “he said in a media statement today.

Paul was commenting on the statement made in a written reply by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Tasks) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan bin Md Yusof in Parliament stating that the provision of IMM13 as the sole document for Filipino refugees in Sabah will be implemented in stages to those who hold the Census and Burung-Burung certificates.

Mohd Redzuan said it is as mentioned by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Hamzah on 14 June 2020.

Mohd Redzuan said until 2016, a total of 136,055 Filipino refugees were recorded to be in Sabah based on the results of cross-checks made by the Sabah National Security Council, Sabah Immigration Department and Sabah Chief Minister’s Department.

“Of the total, the Government classifies the refugees into 3 categories, namely 51,645 IMM13 pass holders; Sabah / Labuan Federal Special Task Force Census Certificate holders (refugees without IMM13 pass) with 47,518 people; and 36,892 Burung-Burung Certificate holders (refugees without IMM13 pass),” he said.

Mohd Redzuan, who was answering an oral question from Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau (UPKO – Tuaran) in the Dewan Rakyat sitting on Tuesday, informed that IMM13 holders need to renew documents every year to ensure they stay legally in Sabah.

“For IMM13 holders who have expired or committed criminal offenses, they will be deported and blacklisted,” he said.

In his question, Madius asked the Prime Minister to state the number of Filipino war refugees in Sabah at this time and until when they were allowed to stay in Sabah.

Paul however agreed that the proposal to grant IMM13 to refugees holding Burung-Burung and Census cards is only part of the process of standardising the refugee register in Sabah to facilitate immediate repatriation to their country of origin or to a third country.

“In essence, the people of Sabah do not want the Filipino refugees to continue living in Sabah by using IMM13. We want them to return to their country of origin or be sent to a third country immediately.

“UNHCR needs to be brought in to arrange a third country for these Filipino refugees in Sabah who do not want to return to their country of origin. Once all 136,055 have been sent back to their country or sent to a third country, it will be easier for the Government to then resolve the other problems associated with illegal immigrants.

“If the Federal Government still wants to continue providing IMM13 to Filipino refugees to enable them to continue living in Malaysia, the Government should bring all IMM13 holders to the Peninsula which is now in desperate need of many foreign workers … at least this can solve the problem of the presence of Filipino refugees in Sabah and also the problem of the pressing need for foreign workers in the Peninsula,” he said.

The problem of the presence of more than 250,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing by sea to Peninsular Malaysia after the communist victories in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos since 1975 was successfully resolved in 1991 with repatriation to their country of origin and some were sent to third countries with the help of UNHCR.

Paul also called on the Government to do a massive clean-up to track down those officers and staff of the Immigration Department and the National Registration Department who may be involved in any syndicate which helps PATI and foreign workers, following news report of the detention of 27 Immigration officers suspected to be involved in a syndicate assisting illegal immigrants and foreign workers.

“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers should also be placed in both departments, especially in Sabah, as part of effective solutions to the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah,” he said, adding that this is also important for restoring the people’s trust in both these departments.-pr/BNN