Sabah cannot afford to accept any more refugees, says a social activist

KOTA KINABALU: The suggestion by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh to accept Palestinian refugees into Sabah should carefully consider the potential implications for the social and economic well-being of the state.


Social activist Datuk James Ligunjang said Sabah is already grappling with the challenges posed by refugees and illegal immigrants, and it is crucial not to exacerbate this situation further.

“Therefore, it is important to thoroughly assess the potential political and economic consequences before deciding to welcome Palestinian refugees into the state,” he said in his latest social media posting.

Lingunjang, who is also a former Petagas assemblyman, said one of his key concerns is the strain that the influx of Palestinian refugees may place on the already limited resources and infrastructure in Sabah.

“The local population already faces difficulties in accessing basic necessities such as healthcare, education, and housing. Introducing a new group of refugees could intensify the competition for these resources, potentially exacerbating inequalities and worsening the overall livelihoods of the local population,” he said.

Moreover, he said addressing the issue of refugees and illegal immigration effectively is a complex and sensitive undertaking.

Lingunjang said Sabah has long struggled with the presence of refugees and undocumented migrants, especially from neighbouring countries.

“Introducing another group of refugees to the existing mix may complicate efforts to manage and resolve the ongoing problem of illegal immigration,” he added.

He said the political implications of such a move in the future must not be overlooked.

The presence of a large number of refugees and illegal immigrants from various countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, has already created political and social tensions in Sabah, he said.

“Bringing in Palestinian refugees could amplify these dynamics and exacerbate polarisation within the local population, potentially straining social cohesion,” he said.

Lingunjang said it is therefore essential to thoroughly evaluate the potential social, economic, and political implications before deciding to welcome Palestinian refugees into Sabah.

“This should include assessing the strain it may place on resources, the potential complications it may add to the existing issue of illegal immigration, and its impact on political and social stability in the state,” he said.

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