Malaysia Tells Manila To Get Back Detained Illegal Pinoy Workers

January 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 13, 2008) – Malaysia has told the Philippines to speed up the repatriation of illegal Filipino workers detained in jails.

Sabah’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Hajji Aman told Filipino lawmakers who visited the oil-rich Malaysian state to expedite the return of the Filipinos, according to the Malaysian Daily Express.

It said many Filipinos have been languishing in jails in Sabah, just a few hundred miles from the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.

“This has been a longstanding issue that we in Sabah have been dealing with. I once again request the Philippine authorities to expedite the documentation of their nationals so that they can be repatriated to their country of origin,” the Minister, who is also the chairman of the State Security Council, said.

He told the Philippine congressional delegation led by Rep. Nur Jaafar, of Tawi-Tawi, about the problems on illegal immigrants, and the need for Manila to fast track the immigrants’ documentation for their immediate deportation.

“We don’t want the social problems that usually come along with the presence of illegal immigrants,” the Minister said.

Jaafar was accompanied by Reps. Yusop Jikiri, of Sulu province and Filipino Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros.

In September, Malaysian authorities arrested dozens of Filipinos for illegally entering northern Sabah.

Police arrested 84 people, including 17 children, after they were intercepted in two boats during a special three-day operation at the Sungai Kanibungan river mouth in Sabah’s northern Pitas district.

Malaysian authorities also seized from one of the Filipino skippers of the boats 5,500 turtle eggs and 335 boxes of cigarettes believed smuggled from the Philippines. With the arrest, police said it uncovered a new landing point for illegal immigrants in northern Sabah.

Tens of thousands of illegal Filipinos have been arrested in Sabah the past years and many of them had illegally crossed the oil-rich Malaysian state by boat from Tawi-Tawi island to work in construction sites despite a strict government campaign.

Others were duped by illegal recruiters who promised them work in hotels and resorts in Malaysia, but ended up without jobs and money and had been forced to work in palm oil plantations under constant fear of being arrested.

Malaysia began a crackdown on up to 500,000 illegal foreign workers since 2005 and conducting searches that extended from construction sites in Kuala Lumpur to oil palm plantations in Sabah. The round-up usually involved police, immigration and volunteer squads.

Kuala Lumpur had previously given amnesty that allowed illegal immigrants to leave the country with a promise they could return as legal workers once they received proper documents. The government’s tough action has enjoyed popular support in Malaysia, where illegal workers, who had numbered more than a million in a country of 24 million people, have been blamed for crime and other social ills.

Malaysia said the illegal workers do not pay tax and put a heavy burden on state services, such as education and health care, increasing pressure on an already high budget deficit. Some Filipino deportees said they were herded into overcrowded detention camps before being expelled and others reported tales of abuses inside Malaysian jails.

Many of those deported ended up in temporary government shelters in Zamboanga City in Mindanao where they are given money so they return to their place of origin. (With reports from Nickee Butlangan and Ely Dumaboc)

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