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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Sex abuse claims fuel Philippine fury
Female Filipino deportees
Newspapers have reported the alleged abuse of many detainees
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has expressed outrage over the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage Filipina girl at a Malaysia detention centre.

In a letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mrs Arroyo called for swift action on reports that a 13-year-old girl was abused by a policeman at a camp in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.


I express my personal outrage and that of the Filipino people and which I am sure you will also condemn in the strongest terms

President Arroyo
News of the alleged incident comes as a Filipino delegation is in Sabah to carry out an inspection of conditions at the camps.

The Philippines has accused Malaysia of treating thousands of Filipino migrants awaiting deportation at the centres inhumanely - depriving them of food and medical facilities.

Three babies are alleged to have died at the camps, sparking off large protests in Manila.

Policeman accused

"I express my personal outrage and that of the Filipino people and which I am sure you will also condemn in the strongest terms," Mrs Arroyo wrote.

She also "called for the swift prosecution of the alleged perpetrator, identified as a policeman assigned to the detention centre in Kota Kinabalu".

Indonesian deportee
In Indonesia migrants are reportedly selling their babies to survive

Simultaneously, Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople handed Malaysia's ambassador in Manila a sternly worded diplomatic protest, saying the incident "calls to question Malaysia's adherence to all United Nations international conventions on human rights".

Over recent days Philippines media reported that a number of Filipina women had been sexually abused in Malaysian detention centres, but authorities there have denied the charge.

Harsh words

The letter and formal protest mark the harshest exchange between the neighbouring countries since the furore over Filipino migrant deportations began.

The Malaysian ambassador Taufik Noor responded to the allegations saying the "Malaysian Government will certainly share the same sense of outrage if it is proven that such an abuse had taken place on this child.

"We are waiting for documents and evidence on the matter from the Philippine authorities and we will forward them to Kuala Lumpur," he said.

Meanwhile, a Philippine delegation has visited three detention centres in Sabah to investigate reports that detainees were being mistreated.

Need to improve

The team's leader, Nur Jaafar, said conditions were generally acceptable, but more care needed to be taken of women and children.

"We have spoken to the Malaysian authorities here and they have assured us that they will do what is necessary to improve the conditions," he said.

Malaysia's action against illegal immigrants has also angered neighbouring Indonesia where camps are struggling to look after fleeing workers.

Aid organisations say that at least 68 people have died in overcrowded camps and that conditions are deteriorating with a severe shortage of medicine, food and clean water.

Some Indonesian migrants have reportedly sold their babies in order to survive.

See also:

29 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Country profiles
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