ZAMBOANGA: More than 120 Filipinos have been deported from Malaysia and arrived by boat in the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi, officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the Filipinos who were mostly illegal migrants and workers, had been arrested in Sabah for violating immigration laws. The deportees would have to be processed first by representatives from various government agencies before they would be allowed to return to their places of origin.
Tawi-Tawi is one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region and is where deportees are routinely interviewed by social workers.
Myrna Jo Henry, who works for the regional government and was sent to document the arrival of the Filipinos, said the latest batch of deportees – 97 men, 19 women and six children – arrived on the Mid-East Express 2 and were immediately provided with food and medical aid.
Malaysia has deported over 6,000 Filipinos since last year as part of its regular crackdown on illegal workers, particularly those in Sabah which is just several hours by boat from Tawi-Tawi province.
Over five months, officials said some 1,000 undocumented Filipinos in Sabah, which is being claimed by the Sultanate of Sulu, had been deported to Tawi-Tawi.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, who is the executive secretary of the Muslim autonomous region, said they are working on an immediate solution to process quickly and sent home the deportees so they can be reunited with their families.
Various government agencies have set up a center to address the assist the deportees and among them are the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Health, Department of Labor and the Commission on Human Rights.
Over 600,000 Filipinos are believed to be staying in Sabah, a mineral-rich island and now forms part of the federated states of Malaysia.
Many deportees have told tales of human rights violations while in Malaysian jail—rom physical abuse to rape—but Alamia said they have not officially receive reports of these complaints, although last year, there were allegations of human rights violations committed against Filipinos in Sabah.
President Benigno Aquino has not ordered any investigation into the issue of human rights violations against Filipinos in Malaysia, which is brokering peace talks between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, who are fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.