ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 27, 2008) – Malaysia has deported more than 200 illegal Filipinos arrested across the oil-rich state of Sabah, the Philippines foreign affairs said Monday.
It said a total of 221 Filipino deportees arrived by boat over the weekend in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces and Zamboanga City. Among those deported were children and women, said Conrado Cabaquit, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Zamboanga City.
He said 138 deportees have disembarked in Tawi-Tawi and 30 others in Sulu and 53 more in Zamboanga City. Cabaquit said those who are planning to return and work to Malaysia should secure their passport so they can legally enter Sabah.
Cabaquit said the DFA has established a so-called “One Stop Processing Center” where Filipinos who want to travel to Sabah can secure all necessary documents.
The Philippine News Agency also reported that more than 500 undocumented Filipinos had been deported from Sabah earlier this month. Last month, some 900 illegal Filipinos were deported from Malaysia.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Zamboanga City said more than 9,000 undocumented Filipinos have been deported from Sabah since January up to last month. Many of those sent back home were natives of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan provinces, all in the Muslim autonomous region and Zamboanga City and other parts of Mindanao.
And many also told tales of abuses by their Malaysian jail guards. Just early this month, a member of the Philippine Congress, Luzviminda Ilagan, accused Malaysian authorities of violating human rights of undocumented Filipinos held in various jails in Sabah, where authorities have been rounding up illegal immigrants and workers.
She said thousands of Filipinos, including women and children, are still languishing in Malaysian jails and suffering from inhumane conditions and had been deprived of their basic rights.
In July, the House of Representatives also passed a resolution calling the Committees on Overseas Workers' Affairs and the DFA to conduct an investigation into the condition of jailed Filipinos in Sabah.
Zamboanga City serves as the transit point for deportees since Malaysia began its crackdown in 2000. Hundreds of arrested Filipinos are being deported every week from Sabah and many of them had told tales of human rights abuses while in Malaysian jails.
Ilagan said the government should provide the deportees with proper housing and livelihood for them not to be tempted to leave the country again in search of a decent life.
She also urged other legislators in the lower house to take up immediate measures to protect undocumented Filipinos, most especially women and children, who face the risk of being detained and abused in Malaysian jails before they are returned to the Philippines. (With reports from Rex Montebon and Erico Rosco)