Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman stressed this was part of drastic measures to be undertaken to address the problem of illegal immigrants that had long plagued the people in Sabah.
“For the first focus (detention and deportation of illegal immigrants), we have looked into details of several aspects that need improvement in the existing operations of the relevant agencies.
“We have agreed to re-introduce integrated operations immediately and I have instructed pre-operation preparedness to be implemented at the quickest possible time to strengthen the operation that will be carried out,” he said in a statement.
The statement was issued after Musa chaired two meetings related to security matters in Sabah here today. They are the State Security Working Committee and the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) in which he sits in both as chairman.
The chief minister said the first focus would include increasing the capacity of temporary detention centres (TDC) which currently held about 5,000 people at any one time.
He explained suitable locations and buildings that could be renovated and gazetted as TDC had been suggested to ensure that the capacity to detain could be increased without the delay that would come with building new centres.
Musa also said there was a need to review and improve the standard operating procedure (SOP) related to the process of deporting illegal immigrants, which included aspects such as remanding, investigating, documenting and the deportation schedule.
“While the current SOP has been improved from an average of six months to two months, this period is still viewed as lengthy and one that requires high operation costs in terms of providing meals to detainees, maintenance and security.
“The improvement of this SOP will require negotiations and cooperation from the country of origin as commitment is needed from these countries in reducing the time it takes to deport detainees,” he noted.
In that respect, Musa said a special task force chaired by the state secretary had been set up to follow up on the two actions to be taken and to head the implementation of the integrated operations.
He also urged all quarters, especially employers to ensure their workers had valid documents and work permits, while community leaders, village headmen and village security and development committee heads were instructed to give their cooperation to security agencies by providing information on illegal immigrants in their respective areas.
He warned that action would be taken against those who harboured illegal immigrants.
For the second focus (curbing illegal entry of foreigners), Musa said the government had agreed to extend the current strategy of keeping in place a curfew in ESSZone, which would be strengthened with the suggestion of a new strategy to gazette islands used by illegal immigrants and criminals as a restricted area.
“This strategy is important as islands in ESSZone waters are among locations for cross-border crime, including smuggling, kidnapping and hiding of illegal immigrants before they enter Sabah,” he said, adding that there were over 360 islands in ESSZone and 83 of the islands were located in Semporna.
As a matter of principle, Musa said the implementation to gazette the targeted islands as restricted areas was dependent on a study to be carried out by an action committee.
“Similar to the curfew strategy, we are confident that the restricted area strategy will create a significant impact in our agenda to curb entry of illegal immigrants.
“This will, in turn assist the state government in overcoming the issue of illegal immigrants which is our main focus in the near future,” he said.