Sabah immigration suspends new registration for refugee kids

Hundreds of people are seen rushing to renew their passes at the Immigration Department in Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Immigration Department today announced the immediate suspension of new registrations for the refugee card IMM13, two weeks after the operation began on Oct 1.

In a short statement, the department said the suspension was for the new registration of children as IMM13 holders throughout Sabah and Labuan.

It did not state the reason for the suspension.

IMM13 is a visitors pass issued by the department to Filipino refugees who entered Sabah between 1972 and 1984.

The children of these refugees are eligible to apply for these documents to allow them to stay with their parents.

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 attend school and get medical services from the government.

Yesterday, videos showing hundreds of IMM13 holders rushing to renew their passes or to apply for new passes for their children went viral on social media, prompting a backlash from opposition leaders who said the passes should no longer be used as there is no more war in the Southern Philippines.

The issuance of the card was suspended in 2013 but quietly resumed early this month. If not for the videos, many would not have realised about the operation, said Sabah Progressive Party president Yong Teck Lee.

Yong said the government’s silence on the resumption of the controversial IMM13 pass for foreigners cast a cloud of doubt on what was actually happening.

There are also concerns that illegal immigrants are trying to take advantage of the system.