Sabah opposition leaders blast return of IMM13 passes

Hundreds of people rush into the Immigration Department’s Special Unit office in Kota Kinabalu to apply for the IMM13 pass. (Youtube screengrab)

KOTA KINABALU: State opposition leaders today slammed the re-opening of applications for IMM13 passes by the Immigration Department here, saying such documents should not be issued anymore.

IMM13 is a visit pass issued by the Immigration Department to Filipino refugees who escaped to Sabah following unrest in the southern Philippines in the early 1970s.

IMM13 holders are allowed to stay in Sabah and Labuan and work without having to apply for a work pass. They are also allowed to go to school and get medical services from the government.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee said the issuance of such passes should be stopped as there was no more war in that region, thus rendering the IMM13 irrelevant.

He also took to task the authorities for not informing the public about this exercise earlier.

“The complete silence of the government on the resumption of the controversial IMM13 document for foreigners casts a cloud of suspicion on what is actually happening.

“Why the silence? If not for the huge crowds of foreigners at the Immigration Department, nobody would have known about the issuance of IMM13 to foreigners again,” he told FMT, referring to videos which have gone viral over social media.

The videos show hundreds of immigrants queuing up in front of the Wisma Dang Bandang building, which houses the Immigration Department’s Special Unit office.

Sabah Immigration director Musa Sulaiman confirmed that the department had started accepting new IMM13 applications for children of existing IMM13 pass holders from Oct 1.

“New issuance of IMM13 for children of refugees had been suspended in 2013 but now we are resuming it.”

Yong, a former chief minister, contended the huge crowds at various National Registration Department (NRD) offices and previously at a Warisan MP’s office were making Sabahans uneasy.

“All these are causing alarm among Sabahans who fear that citizenship documents are being dished out to foreigners.

“VK Liew (de facto law minister and Batu Sapi MP) had to deny that his MP’s office was issuing MyKads after a huge crowd of foreign-looking people gathered outside his Batu Sapi office previously,” he said.

PBS secretary-general Johnny Mositun feared undocumented foreigners would try their luck at obtaining genuine passes.

“Our concern is illegal immigrants might take advantage of the process.

“I understand there are humanitarian grounds to consider but this is our country and we need to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in and, worse, obtaining genuine papers. This is a national security issue.”

Mositun also queried where Upko was when the decision was made to resume the application process, especially since the party had claimed to be serious in addressing the illegal immigrants problem in Sabah.

“Upko acting president Wilfred Madius Tangau had previously called on the government to stop the renewal of the IMM13 documents to refugees from the Philippines.

“He had also stressed that holders of IMM13 should be told to return to their country of origin or be deported. This was among resolutions in Upko’s convention last year submitted to the prime minister then.

“If it was really serious about this, then Upko should fight this decision,” he said.