KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is considering “island settlements” to address the influx of fleeing immigrants from neighbouring countries, says Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
The Chief Minister said these islands were not meant to house illegals but would be similar to a move by the United Nations (UN) back in the 1970s when hostilities rose in the Philippines.
“There are reasons why they ran away which is for the safety of their lives.
“The UN played a role back then so that we can place them (fleeing immigrants) at UN-gazetted areas.
“We must learn from this experience… . Instead of letting them into our land, we identify islands near the Philippine border and not in islands like Mantanani and Sipadan,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the state assembly sitting on Wednesday (April 17).
Asked about the location of these islands, he said, “Nearer to the Philippines border but within our control (still under our jurisdiction)”.
Mohd Shafie said that security forces will play a role in these areas, where the concept will be much like Pulau Bidong in Terengganu.
Pulau Bidong served as a settlement for Vietnamese boat people fleeing the war in the 1970s.
Over 250,000 Vietnamese refugees settled on there between 1978 and 1991.
On a question whether the Philippine or Indonesian governments will be alerted to this issue, he said there was no such need.
“Of course we don’t want to see more chaos (in southern Philippines) but if there are runaways, we have these settlements for them,” he added.