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PIA Press Release
Thursday, January 12, 2012


NGO urges help for undocumented workers in Sabah

by Carina L. Cayon

DAVAO CITY, Jan. 12 (PIA) -- The Center for Overseas Workers (COW) has called on the government and other sectors in the society to help address the increasing number of undocumented Filipino migrant workers and their condition in Sabah, Malaysia.

In a multi-sectoral forum on Monday, COW raised the call after presenting the situation of the many Filipino migrant workers who have sought greener pastures in Sabah, but ended becoming “illegal workers.”

Religious of the Good Shepherd Sr. Alice Andres of COW said many are simply undocumented due to either having expired passports and working permits or they entered Malaysia without any proper documents, or they were survivors of trafficking and bonded labor.

After an exploratory five-month immersion with over a hundred Filipino workers in Sabah, Andres described the undocumented migrants’ state as disheartening, saying that the migrants are experiencing varied forms of violations.

The Davao City-based COW catering to the welfare of migrant workers has assigned Andres in Sabah, Malaysia starting July to November last year to look into the situation of the reported undocumented Filipino migrants and explore possibilities of helping them.

Being called as “illegal workers” in said country having no legal documents in possession, she said Filipinos are subjected to crackdowns, denial of rights, low wages, abuses, exploitation, trafficking, and are being discriminated, stigmatized and criminalized.”

Andres said most of the undocumented or irregular migrants living in irregular situation in Sabah are women, unskilled workers, indirectly hired workers, victims of Trafficking in Person (TIP), children of undocumented parents, overstaying migrants, and holders of fake passports.

She said that the migrants work as plantation workers, domestic workers, professionals, construction workers, waitresses, and factory workers, as well as entertainment industry workers.

Based on her interviews, Andres said that most undocumented Filipinos want to go home but could not do so because its either they have bonded contract, or they are indebted with their employers, or they have no money for the fare back home.

The RGS nun disclosed that Malaysia’s 2010 Census Population data shows that there are 800,000 non-Malaysians living in Sabah.

About 200,000 are undocumented workers, while the 600,000 cover legal workers, expatriates and foreigners who married locals, she said.

However, she said that Malaysia’s 5P programme that involves a program on registration, amnesty, monitoring, enforcement and deportation of migrants has listed only 161,370 undocumented persons or 85 percent of the 200,000.

She stated that Malaysia is the largest receiving country of migrant labor in Asia, having more than three million migrant workers from 14 countries including the Philippines.

COW executive director Sr. Diane Cabasagan, RGS said that they are seeking concerted efforts from the government and other sectors to address the problems on migration, particularly on undocumented Filipino workers in Sabah. (PIA-11/Carina L. Cayon)

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