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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Malaysia probes migrant rape claim
Female Filipino deportees
Malaysia has promised to punish any sexual abuse
Malaysian police have launched an investigation into the alleged rape of a 13-year-old Filipina girl at a detention centre in the eastern state of Sabah.

Officials say they have formed an investigation team, but the girl, who has since been deported to the Philippines, will need to return to Malaysia for questioning.


We have started investigations of our own and we are making arrangements for the girl to come over so that she cam make a formal complaint and we can interview her as well

Ramli Yusuff, Sabah police chief
The Philippines government has formally protested over the reports that the teenager was abused by a Malaysian policeman at the camp - one of three in Sabah holding illegal workers prior to their deportation.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated over Malaysia's crackdown on illegal migrant workers, amid accusations that Malaysia has been ill-treating thousands of Filipinos waiting to leave the country.

Underage sex

Police chief of Sabah, Ramli Yusuff, said the Malaysian state was taking the allegations very seriously.

"We have started investigations of our own and we are making arrangements for the girl to come over so that she can make a formal complaint and we can interview her as well," he added.

Philippines inspectors in detention camp
A Philippines delegation has completed its inspection

Given the girl's age even if she had consented to sex it would be counted as statutory rape - an offence which carries a 14-year jail term in Malaysia.

On Wednesday Philippines President Gloria Arroyo wrote to the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to express her "personal outrage" at the reports and urging swift action.

This was echoed by a formal diplomatic protest from Manila's Foreign Office which said that the incident "may constitute an act of aggression against civilisation itself".

Inspection results

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

Over recent days Philippines media has reported that a number of Filipina women had been sexually abused in Malaysian detention centres.

The accusations come as a Philippines delegation has completed a three-day mission to Sabah to inspect the conditions in three migrant detention centres after allegations of mistreatment.

Punishment

A joint statement from the delegation and Malaysian officials said that "on the whole (the Malaysian government) had exerted all efforts to ease the hardship of detainees and deportees".

But both sides said they were concerned about the rape claim and "other incidents allegedly perpetrated against Filipino detainees by Malaysian officials".

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:

04 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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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