ZAMBOANGA CITY: The province of Tawi-Tawi is preparing to receive and assist illegal Filipino migrants and undocumented workers expected to be deported by Malaysia.
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.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, who is the executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said they are now working to provide temporary shelters for deportees in Tawi-Tawi’s Bongao town while waiting for various government agencies to process them and eventually send them home to their original places.
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 that forms part of the federated states of Malaysia.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and the Commission on Human Rights have set up a center to assist the deportees.
Many deportees have told tales of human rights violations while in Malaysian jail—ranging from physical abuse to rape—but Alamia said they have not officially received reports of these complaints. Last year, human rights violations were allegedly committed against Filipinos in Sabah, particularly when armed members of the Sultanate of Sulu clashed with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu town.
She lamented that government has not even investigated the allegations.
“But we intend to discuss the migration issues, because that would be more long term—for example the demolition of the water villages, the continued crackdown and we have an appeal to do it in a calibrated way so we would not be overwhelmed when the deportees come. That will include human rights issues. We have made recommendations,” she said.
Malaysia is brokering the peace talks between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, who fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.