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New tactic – sneaking into Sabah in smaller groups
Published on: Tuesday, September 27, 2016
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Kota Kinabalu: Passenger boats have been landing in Sandakan coastal villages, raising concern among villagers that their areas may have become a transit point for illegal immigrants from the southern Philippines. One of the villages is Kampung Batu Putih where boats, carrying not more than five people each, are seen making quick stops between 9am and 10am to drop off passengers.These passengers, including children, will later board a bus with their baggage.

This was conveyed to the New Straits Times by a 65-year-old villager, who has been residing in the water village for more than two decades.

"Nobody knows who these people are, nor where they came from. "I suspect they are from the southern Philippines.

"I have been informed by people from other villages, namely Kampung Tinusa 2 and Kampung Mangkalinau, that passenger boats have been stopping there, too," he said.

Unlike in the past where each boat usually carried 50 illegal immigrants, the villager said there was a change in the number of passengers being transported.

He believed travelling in small groups was the latest modus operandi among Filipino migrants in order not to look suspicious. "It makes sense because authorities will not stop a small group as it does not look suspicious.

"I hope the authorities will carry out more inspections on vessels at sea and in water villages," he said, adding that illegal immigrants may have travelled in a big group before boarding different boats once they had sneaked into Sabah waters.

He expressed concern that "illegal villagers" were building houses in Kampung Batu Putih.

The village has about 800 houses, with 4,000 residents, including children.

Kampung Batu Putih is about two hours' boat ride from Pulau Bakungan, an island at the border that is suspected to be one of the transit points for illegal immigrants. The coastal village is also 30 minutes away from Pulau Pamaguan, where a marine police team intercepted a speedboat carrying nine illegal immigrants recently.

It is believed that hundreds of illegal immigrants are staying on islands, including Bakungan and Taganak, and waiting to cross the maritime border and sneak into Sabah.

There is also concern that Abu Sayyaf militants could be among them.

Last Tuesday, police apprehended two Filipinos — a man, 33, and his daughter, 13 — during a raid on a house in Kampung Mangkalinau, Sandakan.

Police found 30 bullets commonly used in assault rifles, an M16, three spent shell casings, a sword, walkie talkies, handphones and military fatigues.

Rumours had it that the man was an Abu Sayyaf member, who had fled to Sabah.

Police are investigating whether the suspect, who tested positive for drugs, was linked to any militant group.


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