Saturday, June 14, 2008


No quick fix over illegals street kids: Syed Hamid


The longstanding problem of the presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah may not be an easy task to deal with. Although many people in the State are hoping for a quick solution to the problem, there are unfortunately issues which need to be dealt with first. After a two-day visit to Sabah, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar felt that there is a need to address the wide-ranging issue of illegal immigrants and migrants in a humane and rational manner without getting emotional. He said the issue of illegal immigrants is straight forward but the problem of stateless and street children needs to be addressed in accordance with international law and children’s rights. “As for illegal immigrants, we can handle it as the governments of their countries of origin will provide relevant travel documents for deportation. We have deported over 100,000 immigrants since 2000,” he said. “However, those stateless or document-less children of migrants are not being accepted. We have to see what we can do to resolve this problem,” said Syed Hamid, adding that such problems are not peculiar to Sabah, for in Peninsular Malaysia there is the Rohingya (refugees) problem. Syed Hamid explained that those without documents are not accepted by their home countries as they have been considered as refugees under the United Nations definition. “Therefore, efforts must be made to find third countries who are willing to accept them,” he said. “Previously we discussed with the United States and accepted a few thousand Rohingya into their country,” he said, adding that Malaysia hopes to discuss with other countries to help take the stateless people in. “I spoke to a 16-year-old stateless boy; he has no education. It would be difficult to find a third country for him,” he said, adding that they could just load them into boats and send them off without a third country ready to accept them. Speaking to the media after attending a meeting with the Narcotics Crime Investigation Department here, Syed Hamid urged the people here not to be sensitive and emotional over the issue. “Playing up the issue of illegal immigrants makes it look like as if there is an agenda,” he said. “You cannot impose; we need to cooperate and find solutions. We understand the fears of the local people,” he said, adding that the Special Cabinet Committee on illegal immigrants headed by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would be meeting soon The committee would look at the various issues and see who would be best invited to the committee in helping solve the complex problem of illegal immigrants, paperless people and refugees in Sabah as well other parts of the country. On the calls by Sabah leaders for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to look into cases of illegal immigrants obtaining Malaysian identity cards through the backdoor, Syed Hamid said that there is no need for it. “We realise that the illegal immigrants issue is complex in Sabah and it is not as simple as it seems. We need solution. There is no need to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the illegal immigrants issue; it would help if we can understand the issue better,” he said.