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Closure of Filipino refugee camps in Malaysia sought

A member of Sabah’s legislative assembly is seeking the closure of refugee camps in eastern Malaysia and to send the Filipino refugees there back to the Philippines. Another legislator Au Kam Wah of Elopura called for the termination of the Sandakan-Zamboanga ferry service, saying Filipinos use it to enter Sabah on a one-way ticket, Malaysia’s Daily Express reported on Thursday. Kuala Penyu Assemblyman Datuk John Ghani, the only independent member of the legislature, said the refugee camps ought to be padlocked because the refugees had caused social problems and burdened the Malaysian government that had to provide facilities at the camps. There were four such camps in Malaysia - at Kinarut in Papar, Telipok (Kota Kinabalu), Kampung Bahagia (Sandakan) and Kampung Hidayat (Tawau). "It is better for the money be spent to help our own poor people. Furthermore, the war has stopped in the southern Philippines," he said when debating the Government's policy during the State Assembly session Wednesday. The Daily Express noted a newspaper report in November quoting Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar as placing the estimate of Filipino illegal immigrants in Malaysia, mainly in Sabah, at 100,000. The proposal to stop the Sandakan-Zamboanga ferry was strongly opposed by other assemblymen who wanted to find out the rationale behind the move. Assemblyman Au defended that while the service in a way had an economic impact on Sandakan particularly in terms of border trading, he said it was also subjected to abuse. Based on figures from the Immigration Department, he said in 2005 a total of 42,153 people from Zamboanga entered but only 19,186 were recorded to have left Sabah. In 2006, he noted that 28, 372 entered the Sandakan port from Zamboanga but only 13,290 left the State. Au said those who did not leave had overstayed and become illegal immigrants. "We have to make a decision to stop the ferry service until we can find a better way of controlling it," he said, adding that the present three-day weekly Sandakan-Zamboanga flight would be able to compensate the move. There had been suggestions before that Filipinos entering via the ferry destroyed their documents upon entering Sabah, aware that their consulate is non-cooperative on the repatriation of refugees, the Daily Express reported. - GMANews.TV