Home ministry proposes single document for Sabah migrants

Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin says the IMM13 document is part of Putrajaya’s strategy to resolve the long-standing stateless and refugee issue in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin has proposed the use of IMM13 as the standard document to resolve the illegal immigrant and stateless problem in Sabah.

At present, these migrants possess the IMM13, the Surat Burung-burung and Census Slip in Sabah.

Hamzah said there was no need to introduce a new type of document to replace the existing ones as this would only confuse the public further.

“At the moment, we are looking at the IMM13. We need to look at only one form of document as it is much easier, not so confusing and something we can easily explain to the rakyat,” he told reporters at the Menggatal temporary detention centre for illegal immigrants here today.

This is also part of Putrajaya’s strategy to resolve the long-standing stateless and refugee issue in Sabah.

Hamzah is in Sabah for a three-day working visit and was accompanied by his deputy, Johnathan Yassin.

Previously, the home ministry, under the Pakatan Harapan federal government, had proposed the standardisation of papers for migrant groups and proposed the introduction of the temporary Sabah Pass.

However, this idea was abandoned following opposition from various political parties.

There are 136,055 IMM13, Surat Burung-burung and Census Certificate holders in the state.

The IMM13 documents were handed out to refugees escaping the unrest in the southern Philippines in the 1970s until the 1980s, while the issuance of the Surat Burung-burung had gone on from the 1970s till early 2000. The Census Certificate was issued between 1990 and 1991.

Hamzah said standardising all to the IMM13 would also make it much easier for the ministry to start engaging with the embassies and get them to issue passports for them.

“How am I supposed to talk to Manila on this matter if we can’t prove that these people are from the Philippines?

“So we have to resolve this problem first before we engage with the Philippines,” he said.

When asked about whether the same would be given to the descendants of these migrants, Hamzah said: “Let us deal with this first group. We can begin the second phase later on.”

Rat trails

Hamzah said the home ministry, in an effort to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Sabah, has identified and closed down 37 rat trails used by foreigners to enter Sabah illegally.

He said there were four illegal entry points in Tawau, one in Semporna, 11 in Sandakan, three in Kunak, one in Pitas, four in Kudat, two in Kota Marudu, two in Kinabatangan, five in Lahad Datu and four in Beluran.

“Throughout the course of the ‘Op Benteng’, which began on March 21, there had been three attempts by foreigners to enter Sabah illegally.”

Hamzah also revealed 7,000 illegal immigrants were currently held at the detention centres in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan, with some of them having stayed there between one and eight months.

He said about two or three of the illegal immigrants were forced to stay at the detention centres as they had criminal records.

Hamzah said ending the illegal immigrant problem in Sabah needs not only the efforts of the agencies, but also the assistance of the locals to report their presence.

He said it would be better if the state government worked together with them at the federal ministry.

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