Sabah mulls island settlements for refugees


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Apr 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is considering having island settlements away from the mainland should there be an influx of immigrants in the event of a civil unrest in southern Philippines.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said these islands were not meant to house illegals.

Instead, he said Sabah was taking a cue from the United Nations in the 1970s when hostilities erupted in the Philippines.

“UN played a role back then, placing them (fleeing immigrants) at UN gazetted areas,” he said.

“We must learn from this experience.

“Instead of letting them on our land, we should identify islands near the Philippine border and not islands like Mantanani and Sipadan,” he told reporters yesterday.

Asked on the location of these islands, he said: “Nearer to the Philippine border but within our jurisdiction.”

Shafie explained that security forces would play a role in these areas, adding that it would be like Pulau Bidong in Terengganu.

Asked whether the Philippine or Indonesian government would be alerted on this, 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 said.

Sabah was on the receiving end when Filipino refugees fled their homeland in the late 1960s and early 1970s during Manila’s civil war with the Moro National Liberation Front.

Many of the refugees were resettled in Sabah’s mainland under the auspices of the UNHCR.

Shafie Apdal