PETALING JAYA: The Committee of Foreign Migrant Management in Sabah (JKPWAS) has stepped up enforcement to address the issue of illegal immigrants in the state.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said this in a joint statement on Thursday.
According to the two ministers, steeper measures are being taken to tackle various issues relating to the presence of illegal immigrants in the state.
Among areas of concern are the production and distribution of fake identity cards.
Dr Ahmad Zahid and Musa said that although these false documents are deemed invalid as they do not exist in the national registration system, the Government will take more aggressive and decisive action against the practice because it involves both fraud against the recipients, and also smears the country's image.
"To improve enforcement, the Government through JKPWAS will establish a Special Force to conduct a thorough investigation into the syndicate groups involved in the production of fake identity cards as those that happened in Sandakan and Tawau, Sabah recently," they said.
The Ministers added that a more through investigation should be mobilised so that the masterminds can be identified and legal action taken against them.
They added that the Government will focus on addressing the entry of illegal immigrants through Sabah waters, and has improved controls at entry points in the state.
Among the steps initiated by the Immigration Department are the taking of biometric information of all foreigners who enter or leave Sabah and the installation of image recognition systems at every entry point.
"The Government also decided that transhipment activities will be reopened on Feb 1 to help boost economic activity in Sabah. This involves normal trade activities, namely the import and export of goods (not including trade petroleum)," they said.
"However, the Government still maintains a ban on suspension of Barter Trade activities," they said.
Based on National Security Council records, 553,692 illegal immigrants in Sabah had been deported between 1990 and March 3, 2017.
For 2017, the number of evictions as of March 2017 stands at 1,120 people.
Among the Government's focus through JKPWAS is to address the issue of illegal immigrants already in Sabah by increasing joint operations between enforcement agencies in the state, and to accelerate the deportation of illegal immigrants to their home countries.