Jul. 30, 2002

80,000 Filipinos in Malaysia face arrest

By Blanche Rivera

AROUND 80,000 undocumented Filipinos in Malaysia face arrest and whipping if they fail to avail of the amnesty being offered by the Malaysian government until Wednesday.
Welfare officer Felma Rasuman said only 20,000 Filipinos have come out in the open and sought the Philippine Embassy's assistance in facilitating their travel documents.
In a report to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Rasuman said that despite last-ditch efforts to encourage undocumented Filipinos to take advantage of the amnesty, many continue to hide.
She said that these Filipinos are in danger of facing harsher penalties when the new provisions of the Malaysian Immigration Act of 1953 take effect on Aug. 1.
Under the new provisions, illegal entrants and their employers would be fined a huge amount and jailed for as long as five years. They also face lashes if arrested.
The Owwa expressed fears that the government would no longer have any reason to intervene in behalf of any undocumented Filipinos that would be caught after the amnesty.
The Owwa had earlier said that there are 100,000 undocumented workers in Malaysia, many of whom are in Sabah, Penang, Johor Bahru, Sarawak and Labuan.
The undocumented Filipinos had entered Malaysia as documented workers but have continued to stay even if their contracts and work permits have expired due to lack of jobs in the Philippines.
Rasuman said the embassy and labor offices have launched a series of information campaign on the amnesty, but few have availed.