Wednesday, July 9, 2008


25,000 illegals deported annually


About 500 children below the age of 18 are living in the Temporary Detention Centre (PTS) in Menggatal. They are children of foreigners temporary detained the Centre, pending deportation to their countries of origin. But during their stay at the wooden detention cells, the well-being of these children had not been neglected. In fact, according to the Federal Special Task Force (FSTF) Assistant Director, Major Mohd Rizam Ayob, who is also the Sabah PTS Commandant, milk powder and feeding bottles are provided for the young children. “In addition, there are daily reading and writing classes for the children at the Centre. We even lend clothing to those who came in here without bringing any change ... this is all done as it is part of human rights,” Mohd Rizam explained. He said under the Child’s Act, it is wrong to detain the children but explained that this happened because their parents, mostly those arrested outside the State Capital, were roped in along with them. “They could not leave the young behind as there was no one to look after them. We cannot keep them apart, so they are being kept here and would be deported along with their parents,” he disclosed. Speaking to reporters after a briefing on the Centre’s facility, Mohd Rizam said to date, a total of 4,000 foreigners could be detained at the three temporary detention centres in Sabah, namely in Menggatal, Sandakan and Tawau, at any one time. But once the temporary detention centres in Papar and Sibuga, Sandakan, as well as expansion of the Tawau Centre are completed by December this year, they would be able to take in 10,000 foreigners at any one time, he said. He stressed that problems pertaining to illegal immigrants would remain in Malaysia as the country practices an ‘open concept’. “The fact that locals could accept the illegal immigrants and some even rent their houses or lands to these people does not help. Employers are more fond of taking illegal immigrants to work for them instead of those with proper documents, as they are considered as cheap labour,” he said. It is estimated that there are some 230,000 foreign labourers in Sabah. “There are also not many official entry points in the West Coast of Sabah except for Sandakan and Tawau, thus forcing these people to come in illegally, and sometimes those who entered with proper documents would end up as illegal immigrants when they leave their work place without taking their permits and passports or if they committed a crime,” he explained. The FSTF deports around 25,000 illegal immigrants to their countries, with an average of between 2,000 and 2,500 a month, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians. “Filipinos cover about 70 per cent of the overall population at all three Centres throughout Sabah,” he said, adding that 250 Filipinos were deported yesterday. Statistics showed that between the year 1990 and 2007, a total of 364,864 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested, comprising 203,138 Filipinos, 157,778 Indonesians and the remaining from other nationals. And between those years, a total of 298,601 illegal immigrants have been deported. The remaining number of people arrested were released after a screening process at PTS. “And between 1990 and 2006, a total of 74,210 foreigners had returned to the countries of origin voluntarily,” Mohd Rizam explained. In the first five months this year, FSTF recorded 11,749 foreigners detained at the three Centres, of which, 9,670 people have been deported. “There are new detainees sent to the Centre almost everyday, and there are foreigners deported to their respective countries almost everyday too,” he said. Asked whether they are ready for the coming massive operation to weed out illegal immigrants from Sabah, Mohd Rizam answered: “Yes, we are ready.” He said since taking over the Centre from the Prisons Department two years ago, FSTF had no problem dealing with the foreigners. “We deal with them with respect. And through such understanding, we were able to maintain peace and harmony at the Centre.”

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