Published on: Friday, February 01, 2013
Kota Kinabalu: A senior immigration officer here denied that two new guidelines to improve on the issuance of IMM13 cards in Sabah were made after the Government decided to set up the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in June last year.
Testifying as the 50th witness before the RCI hearing here Thursday, Abdul Khalid Abdul Karim, who holds the rank of Assistant Superintendent, is a division head of the Special Unit in the Immigration Department here that handles the issuance of IMM13 documents and Entry Permits.
He said the guidelines, under a new directive, pertain to how Immigration officers accept new applications for the issuance of IMM13 plus the flowchart of the whole process as a guide for their personnel and officers.
He said there are new standard operating procedures (SOP) that are more detailed and coordinated with better security vetting compared to the previous practices.
"The new directive is also an office instruction here that was drafted by my unit and proposed in September last year, and brought to a workshop attended by Immigration district heads and relevant officers on the SOP on Oct 15 to 16 last year.
"All meetings had agreed on the draft of the new SOP on Dec 19 and it took effect on Dec 31 last year, when the Sabah Immigration Director endorsed the draft," Abdul Khalid said in response to questions by Ansari Abdullah who is holding a watching brief for Dr Chong Eng Leong in the hearing here.
Ansari insisted that two guidelines under the new directive were made after the RCI was announced by the Government in June last year.
"It is not true because of that (RCI announcement). The two guidelines were established because we received complaints from the district Immigration heads that the process of receiving the new applications for IMM13 documents was not in order.
"I took account of the complaints and came up with the two guidelines," Abdul Khalid said, concurring that the two guidelines were created after June last year.
To a question by the Conducting Officer Manoj Kumar, Abdul Khalid said the new SOP provides for IMM13 documents to all eligible applicants, including their dependents below 18.
"The old SOP/directive required us to only issue the IMM13 cards individually to their dependents above 18 while those below 18 were attached together with their parents' IMM13 documents," he said.
Another major difference between the old and new directive, Abdul Khalid testified, is that the new applicants now who produce late birth certificates must get endorsement from a First Class Magistrate before the applications are processed.
He further revealed another new feature where the new directive requires photographs of the dependents and statement of their parents that the dependents are their biological children must be attached with their applications.
He said new applications to issue the IMM13 documents to dependents below 18 can be approved by the head of division and the Immigration district heads.
As for those dependents above 18, he said the Immigration Director has the authority to approve the new applications and junior immigration officers can approve the yearly renewal of the documents (IMM13).
According to Abdul Khalid, IMM13 documents can be revoked when the holders are convicted in court.
In light of this, Datuk John Sikayun, who is holding a watching brief for the Sabah Law Association (SLA), asked the witness whether the department has a system of surveillance to monitor the IMM13 holders.
Abdul Khalid said the department does not monitor or follow-up on the IMM13 holders when the IMM13 cards are issued to the successful applicants. They are free to move around.
On the number IMM13 cards revoked, he said only the department's director can revoke the document and will deport the holders to their country of origin.
So far, he said there has been no records on the number of IMM13 documents that have been revoked.
To a question from another lawyer holding a watching brief for SLA, Ahmad bin Abdul Rahman, Abdul Khalid said the IMM13 documents are issued to Filipino refugees from the Southern Philippines as there was a directive that the documents be issued to these refugees although they have no identification documents.
On statistics regarding the issuance of IMM13 documents, he said a total of 98,427 IMM13 cards were issued to Filipino refugees from Southern Philippines as of December, last year.
Of the figure, he said, about 60,200 are active holders who renewed the documents while the remainder may be due to some having died, some issued with entry permits and some may have returned to the Philippines.
Ansari asked whether the department has a record of IMM13 holders prior to 2005 (1970s to 2004) in Sabah.
Abdul Khalid replied he does not know if there was such record.
Manoj queried the census by the Federal Special Task Force for Sabah and Labuan (FSTF) that recorded 10,982 IMM13 holders in their 32 refugee settlement villages in Sabah not tallying with the Immigration's record of the same holders.
Abdul Khalid said he has no knowledge on the difference in the figures.
RCI Chairman Tan Sri Steve Shim also questioned why the number of IMM13 holders in Sabah is higher than the figure recorded by the United Nations (UN) at 73,000.
Shim said they assumed the UN's figure referred to the refugees who entered Sabah in the 1970s and 1980s.
Abdul Khalid answered that the increase in the figure refers to the dependents of the IMM13 holders particularly children who had birth certificates and attached to the parents' documents.
On entry permits, he said the Home Ministry would process all applications received, adding, the entry permit is a document that allows the holder to stay in Malaysia for a specified period.
"The applicant can list their dependents of up to six persons in each form.
So far, about 44,000 forms have been processed and 33,000 forms or 62,000 head counts have been approved and issued with permits.
"The permits were issued to the Filipinos and Indonesian Chinese who came here after the Confrontation.
"On average, the ministry has approved 71 per cent of the applications from 2003 to December last year," Abdul Khalid said.