KOTA KINABALU: The federal government's assurance to resolve Sabah's longstanding illegal immigrant problem must see tangible results, says a former state minister.
"Malaysians in Sabah want to see tangible results and look forward to firm action on the part of the federal government to resolve this longstanding issue plaguing the state," said Datuk Christina Liew.
She said this in welcoming the assurance by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin that there would be no compromise in dealing with illegal immigrants in Sabah.
On Tuesday (March 9), Hamzah said the Home Ministry and the Sabah government had decided to take firm action and would no longer compromise in dealing with illegal immigrants in the state.
Liew said the Statistics Department had estimated earlier this week that Sabah's population in 2020 would be at 3.91 million, including more than one million non-citizens.
She said the presence of illegal immigrants not only posed socio-economic and security concerns but also health worries as some are carriers of communicable diseases that are not prevalent among locals.
"Yes, Sabahans also have some of these diseases but the rates of disease prevalence are higher in the transient population than among the local population, ” said Liew.
“As such, it is a great challenge, if not impossible, to control these diseases from spreading from illegal immigrants to the local population because they are difficult to trace," she added.
She said to check the spread of Covid-19, the relevant authorities need to stop these undocumented people from coming into the state.
Liew also said she hoped that Hamzah's announcement is not just another 'promise' in view of the coming 15th General Election.
"The federal government must prove its sincerity in wanting to help Sabah deport the thousands of illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin," said the Sabah PKR chief in a statement on Wednesday (March 10).
Saying that there had been promises in the past to resolve the problem, Liew hoped that the latest assurance would not become a "cliche".
She added that Sabah has been facing the problem of migrants since the 1970s with the entry of Filipino refugees and economic migrants.
"Concrete action must be taken to resolve the problem for Sabah," said the Tawau MP.