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KOTA KINABALU, Sept 6 — The federal and state governments have taken a step towards solving the longstanding illegal immigrant problem in Sabah by issuing a temporary Sabah pass to qualified foreigners holding existing documents in the state.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the pass will replace three documents — the IMM13, burung burung certificate and census certificate — that have been issued to over 600,000 refugees and economic migrants since the 1970s.
“This is just a step to streamline the process because of the numerous identification documents in the state which makes it hard for enforcement to identify and verify,” said Muhyiddin after co-chairing the main committee on foreigner management in Sabah held for the first time by the Pakatan Harapan government.
Holders of these three types of documents may return them in exchange for the new temporary pass.
Muhyiddin said that the pass is in the form of a card that will contain the biometrics, fingerprints and photo of its holder, cost RM120 per card and has to be renewed every three years.
“It is cheaper compared to the previous process. We have taken into account affordability,” he said.
The government aims to implement the new pass by June next year, if the special state-level task force to be set up to deal with the issue irons out all the details in time.
“We are hoping that with the new pass, it will be able to limit or eliminate the use of fake documents in the state,” he said.
The IMM13 is the document given to war refugees in the 1970s, mostly from Southern Philippines, while the burung burung was issued during the Berjaya government during the 1970s and 1980s.The census certificate was issued by the federal special task force.
In line with the move, the federal government is also looking to enhance security measures at other airports in Sabah specifically Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau to impede the movement of illegal immigrants holding fake or unverified passes.
To questions of how the children of such document holders, as well as the large illegal population not holding the three documents, will be dealt with, Muhyiddin said many details had yet to be decided.
Unofficial figures have put the number of foreigners in Sabah as high as 1.1 million.
“Let us take one step at a time. First, we want to standardise the three documents, and put them in the same category so that we can deal with it step by step,” he said.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that the move was an important step towards resolving the complex issue of immigrants in the state, including the huge labour force that relies on foreigners and also the problem of them returning after being deported.
“The issues are complex — we are dealing with labour ordinances, and identification and others so we need time. It cannot be resolved overnight, but what we can do is do away with these three documents. We resolve that first and we can deal with the others in phases,” he said.
On a related matter, Muhyiddin said that 586,367 illegal immigrants have been deported from Sabah, according to state National Security Council’s numbers.
“This year alone, up to September 4, some 8,343 people were deported,” he said.