End of road for illegals as massive blitz set to begin
While Malaysians in Sabah are preparing for the Independence Day celebrations during the month of August, the days are numbered for the illegal immigrants in the State. Today, their “independence” will be over. They will no longer be at liberty to play a cat-and-mouse game with the Malaysian authorities - and stay on in Sabah, untouched. Looming large over the elusive illegal immigrants are the nets of widespread operation to round them up for repatriation. Sabah Deputy Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Razak Abdul Ghani confirmed yesterday that the first integrated massive operation would be launched in the first week of August. “We will work hand in hand (with other law enforcement agencies) to rid Sabah of illegal immigrants. “Forastart, we will concentrateour operations on the West Coast of Sabah, especially in the State Capital (Kota Kinabalu) before expanding them to the East Coast,” he told Bernama. Abdul Razak said at least 200 personnel from the Police, Army, Immigration Department, National Registration Department and Rela would be deployed at any one time during the operation. “Wehave already prepared ou grOundwork and identified and listed the areas for the operation, including Penampang. “This time, we plan the operation properly so that every illegal immigrant in Sabah is deported to their country of origin,” he said. The major crackdown is made possible by the Federal Government, which responded positively to the incessant demands of late by State politicians and the people who want the problem solved once and for all. In what is seen as a sigh of relief for the more than three million people in Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Sen Najib Razak announced recently that the operation to repatriate between 100,000 and 150,000 illegal immigrants in the State would start in August. The major crackdown, with an allocation of around RM5O million, is to round up all foreign nationals who are without valid documents. All segments of the society, especially the locals have welcomed the move, hoping that the problem besetting the State will soon be a thing of the past. Former Chief Minister Datuk Sen Salleh Said Keruak said the move showed the commitment of the Federal Government to free Sabah of illegal immigrants. “We hope such a move would bring a ray of hope to the people and the State. This time, the Sabah people really want to see a lasting solution to the problem,” he told Bernama. Salleh, ‘who is United Sabah Bajau Organisat’ion (Usbo) President, suggested a similar operation be implemented on a regular basis to achieve the desired result. The Government, however, faces numerous challenges in tackling the issue, and one of which is the fact that many among the deported illegals will find their way back to Sabah because of difficulties in finding jobs in The Philippines. Seen as a goidmine for the illegal immigrants, Sabah is the most strategic and easiest location for them to come, especially those from The Philippines and Indonesia. However, although Sabah is inundated with illegal immigrants, there are still many foreigners who prefer to enter the State legally. “I have been in and out of Sabah for the last 20 years. I have never tried to enter this State illegally. “Whenever I come here, I use my passport and apply for a work pass,” said 38-year-old Mienral Tadlan Bundaon from Sanga-Sanga in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in the Southern Philippines. He said there is no problem for foreigners to work in Sabah if they come with a proper document. “In fact, for the last two decades, the Malaysian authorities have never disturbed me because I have a work pass. I could go and move freely here and there without any trouble. “All we need to do is to respect the law of this country,” he said when met at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport before boarding a flight home to Clark, near Manila. Asked what he thought of the operation to flush out illegal immigrants in Sabah, Mienral said immigration law is a universally accepted law. “Even Malaysians need to have passports and apply for work passes if they want to visit or work in The Philippines. That’s why I never break the Malaysian immigration law all this while,” he said.