73,000 Filipino refugees registered in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Of the 73,000 Filipino refugees registered in Sabah, 33,019 had been issued with the refugee card, Chief Minister’s Department Home Affairs and Research Office secretary Moktar Yassin Ajam said.

Moktar, the fourth witness giving evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants hearing at the High Court here yesterday, said according to statistics, a total of 73,000 refugees were registered between 1976 and 1985.

“In the updated record in 2010, 33,019 of these refugees, including their children in Sabah who are estimated to be about 15,000, are in possession of the refugee card,” he said, adding, “and this is the record the Unit has.”

“The initial record was 73,000 but some were issued with IMM13. Based on our survey done from 2007 to 2010, there were 33,019 who had been issued the refugee card. At that time we assumed that there were others and their children who did not manage to get the IMM13 document.

“I was made to understand that the children were the third and fourth generation of Filipino refugees who fled to Sabah in the 1970s,” he said, adding that the survey was done to find out why these people were not issued with the IMM13.

Among the reasons was that there were some glitches in the Immigration Department’s process and it had stopped issuing the IMM13 since 2004/2005, he said, adding that the Unit was in discussion with the department to have an exemption order issued so that these people could get the IMM13.

To the question by conducting officer Manoj Kurup as to what he thought were the weaknesses in the management of Filipino refugees who fled to Sabah since the 1970s, Moktar replied that in his opinion, it was in the identification documents issued to these people.

He felt that the state and federal governments needed to acknowledge the presence of refugees in Sabah.

“The fact remains that the refugees have been in Sabah for a long time but were not given opportunities by the government. For example, their children are unable to get an education here because they do not have any valid identification documents,” he said.

“We know that Sabah has benefited from the presence of these refugees as they have worked in several sectors like in construction as skilled labour. The government must make a final decision as to what to do with them,” he said.

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