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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Malaysia 'mistreating migrants'
Illegal Philippine immigrants squatting inside a police truck as they are deported from Sabah, Malaysia
The Philippine government wants conditions improved
The Philippines Government has filed a formal complaint to the Malaysian authorities over reports that its neighbour is mistreating thousands of Filipino illegal immigrants.

The protest follows an angry demonstration in Indonesia on Monday against Malaysia's treatment of Indonesian immigrants.

Malaysian courts have already ordered scores of illegal immigrants to be jailed and caned in the first cases to be tried under the country's tough new immigration laws which came into effect at the end of July.

Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines, Mohamad Taufik, was summoned to the country's Department of Foreign Affairs and handed the complaint, said Philippines Foreign Secretary Blas Ople.

Foreign workers wait to leave Malaysia
An estimated 300,000 illegal migrants are thought to remain

Mr Ople told a news conference that whilst the Philippines does not expect "Hilton-standard treatment" for its nationals in Malaysia, reports indicate that the conditions in the detention centres are "unduly harsh".

Mr Ople said that Filipino migrants had been rounded up into crowded detention centres in Malaysia, where they were sometimes deprived of food and water.

Officials have confirmed that three Filipino children have died while in the process of being deported, one at a Malaysian detention centre on Saturday, one on board a navy ship prior to departing Malaysia, and a third on Monday after returning to the Philippines.

Two of the deaths are thought to have been related to overcrowded conditions and the third was due to dehydration, according to a spokesman for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ambassador Taufik said he did not deny the claims of overcrowding, saying that there just too many migrants for the detention centres to accommodate.

"I will convey the concern on the condition and leave to the Malaysian (government) what to do next," he said.

Protests in Indonesia

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid meanwhile called on Jakarta to ensure the safety of Malaysians in Indonesia, following Monday's demonstration during which 40 furious Indonesians burned the Malaysian flag and pushed down the main gate of the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta.

Indonesian protesters burn a Malaysian flag during a demonstration outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta
Indonesians are also angry

"We should be not be guided by emotions in dealing with international relations," Mr Syed was quoted as saying by Malaysia's Bernama news agency.

Malaysia's new law stipulates that foreign workers without relevant permits, and anyone who employs or harbours them, can be fined up to 10,000 ringgit ($2,600), imprisoned for five years and given up to six strokes of the cane.

The law came into force after a four-month grace period during which illegal immigrants could leave the country freely with no questions asked.

But government officials say only half the country's estimated 600,000 illegal immigrants, mainly Indonesians, left the country under this amnesty programme.

Malaysia is one of South East Asia's wealthiest countries and acts as a magnet for migrants fleeing poverty and violence in the rest of the region.

See also:

10 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Country profiles
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