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July 21, 2008

Malaysian deports more than 300 Filipinos from Sabah
More than 300 Filipinos arrested in Sabah have arrived here, as Malaysia continued its crackdown on undocumented workers in the oil-rich state, reported Philippine daily Manila Times.

The deportees arrived by boat late Saturday afternoon from Sandakan City. They were herded onto trucks and brought to a government refugee shelter. The deportees, mostly from Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi provinces, all in the Muslim autonomous region, are to be sent to their home provinces after social workers gather information about them.

Malaysia has deported thousands of illegal Filipino workers since early this year. Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Hajji Aman has repeatedly appealed to Manila to speed up the repatriation of many illegal Filipino workers detained in jails, but so far nothing had been done to bring them back.

Tens of thousands of illegal Filipinos have been arrested in Sabah over the past years. Many of them had illegally crossed to Sabah by boat from Tawi-Tawi to work at construction sites.

Philippine authorities appeared to be helpless in putting a stop to the illegal border crossing. Many boat operators in Tawi-Tawi continue to sneak into Sabah, bringing dozens of Filipinos to find work there.

Many Filipinos also go to Sabah, just 27 nautical miles from Tawi-Tawi’s Sitangkai town, as tourists but never return back—only to be arrested later by immigration authorities.

Malaysia began a crackdown on up to 500,000 illegal foreign workers since 2005 and police and immigration authorities and volunteer squads have been conducting searches that extended from construction sites in Kuala Lumpur to palm oil plantations in Sabah.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila reported that as many as 300 illegal Filipinos are being deported from Malaysia every week. Since January this year, more than 7,000 illegal Filipinos had been deported to the Philippines.

Kuala Lumpur had previously given amnesty that allowed illegal immigrants to leave the country with a promise they could return as legal workers once they received proper documents. The government’s tough action has enjoyed popular support in Malaysia, where illegal workers, who had numbered more than a million in a country of 24 million people, have been blamed for crime and other social problems.

Malaysia said the illegal workers do not pay tax and put a heavy burden on state services, such as education and health care, increasing pressure on an already high budget deficit.

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