KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government claims it had no knowledge about the Immigration Department’s exercise to resume the issuance of documents to refugees in the state.
Speaking to reporters after opening the Upko delegates meeting here today, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said the re-issuance of the permits was never brought up during the state security council meeting, which he chaired this week.
“I was quite surprised because it happened when I was in Kuching and I had to tell the department it was better to stop the exercise because we were not informed of this matter.
“The Immigration Department is under the federal government. The IMM13 document is one of the issues we need to thrash out. We must work together so this thing can be overcome.”
IMM13 is a visit pass issued by the Immigration Department to Filipino refugees who escaped to Sabah following unrest in 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.
On Thursday, videos showing hundreds of immigrants queuing up in front of the Wisma Dang Bandang building, which houses the Immigration Department’s special unit office, had gone viral on social media.
Sabah Immigration Department director Musa Sulaiman confirmed the department had started accepting new applications for IMM13 from children of other IMM13 holders since Oct 1.
The operation was suspended yesterday.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong blamed the action of re-issuing the IMM13 passes on “little Napoleans” within the Immigration Department.
He claimed the entire Sabah Cabinet was taken by surprise on Thursday by the re-issuance of the documents and this matter could not be taken lightly. Action must be taken against such irresponsible personnel, he added.
Shafie said he would not agree if the IMM13 documents were issued to illegal immigrants. He, however, admitted he was not well-versed on the procedures.
“Illegal immigrants must be sent back where they come from. But for those with one parent who is local, we must assist in their documentation.”
However, he said the Cabinet is more concerned about how the IMM13 issue came about.
He believed the order may have come from the federal government as such documentation came under its jurisdiction.
He said the state government will discuss the matter with the federal government but warned that similar action could damage the state government’s efforts in solving problems related to illegal immigrants and the stateless in Sabah.
He said Warisan still believed that one of the more effective ways to combat the illegal immigrant issue is to reissue the MyKad to find fake MyKad holders in the state.
He said any such an exercise should be done in Sabah, not in Kuala Lumpur, as the officers could recognise who are the real Sabahans.