A total of 63 Filipinos who had allegedly been working in Malaysia illegally, were intercepted by the Philippine Coast Guard as they returned home on a boat from Sabah on Sunday.
The boat was intercepted near the shore at Barangay Baliwasan. Of those on board, 41 people, including 16 minors, had no proper identification documents, Philstar Global reported.
The remaining 22 people who had documentation, mainly residents of Zamboanga City, Sibuco and Sirawai, were handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Some of them, reportedly employed in Malaysia as factory workers, stated that they wished to return to Sabah after visiting relatives in the Philippines.
According to Zamboanga Coastguard Station commander Noriel Ramos, many of the intercepted were forced to come home via “back door channels” because of the ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants by the Malaysian authorities.
According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia has approximately 400,000 undocumented people from the Philippines. The Malaysian authorities estimate the figure to be more than double that amount.
Last month, the Immigration Department of Malaysia launched a voluntary surrender program to encourage 840,000 illegal immigrants in the country to leave by Aug. 31 without being punished. On August 10, Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Charles Jose urged the undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia to take advantage of the voluntary deportation program, Manila Bulletin reported.