KOTA KINABALU: The authorities have arrested 15 Filipinos who slipped into Sabah in an operation to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Sabah's east coast.
The 15 were arrested in waters near Kampung Tong Batu Lok Damai in Pulau Sakar near Lahad Datu at about 12.30pm on Thursday (Dec 26) and were aged from 3 to 50.
Sabah Marine Police chief Asst Comm Mohamad Pajeri Ali said on Friday that the suspects were not in possession of any documents when arrested during a joint operation with personnel from the Immigration Department.
"All of them admitted they were from the Philippines and came into the state illegally," he said.
ACP Pajeri said the joint inter-agency operations were aimed at tackling the growing problem of illegal immigrants slipping into the state.
He said some 16 marine police officers, two Lahad Datu-based immigration officers and three vessels from the marine police were also deployed during the joint operations in waters around Pulau Sakar.
The 15 are now being investigated for entering the state illegally and could face a maximum fine of RM10,000 or a jail term of not more than five years or both if found guilty under Section 6(1)(c) Immigration Act 1959/63.
They could also face six strokes of the cane.
ACP Pajeri said they were continuing to step up operations during the current year-end holiday season and he urged the public to inform the police if they have any knowledge of illegal immigrants or other criminal activity.
The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has been on heightened alert due to intelligence reports of Abu Sayyaf-linked cross-border groups prowling the waters between Sabah's east coast and the southern Philippines.
Last week, suspected smugglers opened fire at a Malaysian Customs team near waters off Pulau Mataking in Semporna, close to the sea borders of the Philippines. No one was hurt in the shooting but the gunmen managed to slip back into the Philippines.
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