KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) has urged the Sabah government to expedite the issuance of special identity cards for the stateless community.
MHO adviser Musa Hassan said thousands of Sabah residents were the descendents of those who had been allowed to live in the state using the IMM13 refugee cards. Their children and grandchildren, however, were not given the same privileges.
Similarly, he said, there were thousands of native people who were undocumented because of geographical factors, including the Bajau Laut community who live at the sea.
“Without proper documents, they won’t have access to education, jobs and health facilities. They are also human, but if we don’t act now, it’s akin to dehumanising them,” the former inspector-general of police told a media conference today.
“Without documentation, they could be manipulated by irresponsible parties. They could be used by our enemies if we don’t help them. So there’s a security issue,” added Musa.
Musa’s call comes after home minister Hamzah Zainudin announced that the government would provide special identity cards for foreigners who had been residing in Sabah for years.
However, Sabah chief minister Hajiji Noor said the proposal was still being discussed and no final decision had been made.
Meanwhile, MHO secretary-general Hishamuddin Hashim said many of Sabah’s stateless people had been detained and sent to the immigration depots, causing further uncertainty in their status.
He said some of them had been detained for “a very long time” in the depots, for up to three years.
“We were approached by several people who claimed that their family members had been detained for two to three years. As a legal practitioner, I’ve never heard of anyone being detained at a depot for such a long time.
“The depot should serve as a transit centre while detainees wait to be deported. It should take between two weeks and two months to deport them, but I cannot believe that there are detainees being held for up to three years,” he said.
MHO has been providing legal service and championing the humanitarian and welfare issues of detainees at the depots and stateless communities.
Hishamuddin reiterated that stateless people had not committed any crimes. “They were born in Malaysia but it so happened that they were never provided with official documents,” he said.
He urged the authorities to release them while the state government arrived at a solution.