KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is seeking a way to move forward in resolving the state's nearly 500,000 stateless people issue.
The four decades of complex migrant problem came into focus at a dialogue between elected representatives, officials of the judiciary, senior immigration and National Registration Department officials here on Friday (Nov 16).
The stateless foreigners in Sabah come from descendants of Filipino refugees of the 1970s, children from illegal marriages between Filipino and Indonesian illegal migrants and locals who have blended into Sabah with no roots to their homeland.
It is a complex problem that festered over the decades and today, their countries of origin refuses to accept them back or do not recognise them as their citizens.
"We want to find a solution. We cannot let this go on. We have to move forward," Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman (pic) said.
Azis said that the issue needs to be resolved and the dialogue will give elected representatives proper understanding to the problem.
"It is our problem. We have to find solutions," he said, adding that providing Immigration documents to Filipino refugees in the 1970s have left Sabah with the complex problem especially with Philippines no longer recognising them as their citizens.
"Some in Peninsular Malaysia are suggesting we give the Rohingya some form of documents. Personally with the Sabah experience... it is better for them to be sent back. If not, Peninsular Malaysia will face Sabah's problem with the Filipinos," he added.
According to Sabah NRD director Datuk Ismail Ahmad, there were 2,825,897 Sabahans registered with the department.
These include about 644,000 Kadazandusun, 477,000 Bajau, 112,000 Murut, 265,000 Chinese and 1.325 million other ethnic and races in the state.
He said these were actual registered Sabahans including PR holders while the Statistics Department census of 3.9 million was based on people in the state.