ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippines is bracing for the deportation of tens of thousands of undocumented Filipinos from Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur renewed its crackdown on illegal migrants and workers.
More than 1,000 illegal Filipinos in Sabah, which is being claimed by the Sultanate of Sulu, have been deported over the last five months.
Laisa Alamia, who is the executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said they are working to provide temporary shelters for deportees in Tawi-Tawi’s Bongao town while waiting for government agencies to process them and eventually sent home to their hometown.
“We are now working on an immediate solution to process quickly and sent home the deportees so they can be reunited with their families,” said Alamia, who led a team to Tawi-Tawi to oversee the processing of the Filipinos sent home by Malaysia.
Some 198 Filipinos arrived by boat recently from Sabah and many of them are natives of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, two of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. Over 600,000 Filipinos are in Sabah, a mineral-rich island and now forms part of the federated states of Malaysia.
The number of deportees could rise and the autonomous government and the provincial government of Tawi-Tawi are working closely to address the influx of Filipino deportees.
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.
Many deportees have told tales of human rights violations while in Malaysian jails – from physical abuse to rape – but Alamia said they have not officially received reports of the complaints.
Last year, there were allegations of human rights violations against Filipinos in Sabah, particularly when armed members of the Sultanate of Sulu clashed with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu town.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has not ordered any investigation into the violations against Filipinos in Malaysia, which is brokering peace talks between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).