Be careful with birth certs for kids of refugees, warns Sabah opposition

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee.

KOTA KINABALU: Opposition leaders in Sabah have cautioned the federal government to tread with care following a deputy minister’s remarks on children of IMM13 holders in the state being issued birth certificates yesterday.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee said, provided there is no abuse, the birth certificates issued to children born to parents, both of whom are foreigners, were merely proof of birth and parentage.

This, on its own, does not confer citizenship or permanent residence, he added.

“But, of course, the Sabah experience is that such birth certificates have been abused for issuing citizenship documents at a later stage.

“This is the main worry among genuine Malaysians,” he told FMT.

Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman had said children of Filipino refugees who hold the IMM13 pass will not be considered Malaysians although they have been issued birth certificates.

“If they are born in Sabah, they are given birth certificates, but this does not make them citizens,” he said when asked about the status of children of IMM13 holders.

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, as well as seek employment, attend school and get medical services from the government.

Parti Bersatu Sabah president Maximus Ongkili said this practice had been implemented by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

He said children of illegals and IMM13 holders cannot be issued the same birth certificates as other Sabahans.

“It can be proof of registration but must be different from locals who are citizens of the country. The differentiation must be clear and respected.

“We don’t want children of illegals or IMM13 holders, with the same birth certificates as original Sabahans, to automatically claim citizenship,” said the Kota Marudu MP.

In 2014, the Sabah National Registration Department said birth certificates were issued to foreign children born in Sabah to monitor their presence, but they were not considered citizens.

The department had also said that these children would be issued red birth certificates.