KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Immigration Department has deported a total of 316 undocumented migrants back to the Philippines on March 6, after months of border lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With some immigration rules being eased and negotiations with the Philippines consul-general, the migrants were finally allowed to return to their country via sea routes from the Sandakan jetty at about 7pm.
They were taken from Tawau to Sandakan by road, before being sent home via sea routes to Zamboanga, southern Philippines.
State Immigration director Datuk Mohamad Sade Mohamad Amin said this is the first deportation for 2021.
“The migrants are those who have been detained at the Tawau detention centre since last year, ” he said in a statement here, late Saturday (March 6).
He said all detainees were required to undergo strict health screenings including Covid-19 tests and segregation of detainees based on the time of arrest when they were sent to the detention centre and health status.
“This is to minimise risks of virus and other health-related transmissions, ” Mohamad Sade said.
Those deported included Filipinos who had overstayed in Sabah, breached their pass or permits and those who came in without documentation.
He said this deportation would not have been successful if it weren’t for the discussions made with the consul-general Anne Jalando-On Louis.
“We are committed to sending more undocumented migrants back to their hometowns through strict SOPs and legislative approvals amid this pandemic, ” Mohamad Sade said.