2011/06/17 TACKLING the problem of illegal immigrants in the highlands will not be easy, Kundasang assemblyman Dr Joachim Gunsalam says.
Joachim is referring to areas such as Monteki and Mesilou which sit 2,300m to 2,500m above sea level at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu in the area which comes under the district of Ranau.
"Trucks climbing up the steep road on the hills can be seen from afar and by the time any raiding party arrives, the culprits will be gone.
"But that should not stop the authorities from taking other form of actions."
He believes there are proactive steps that can be taken to reduce their numbers in the area.
Joachim says the foreigners would come out between 2am and 6am to sell vegetables at the roadside stalls near the town area or during the weekly Friday tamu or open market.
"The Immigration Department can put a team to conduct checks on the validity of their documents then. I am sure other authorities such as the police will not mind assisting."
The authorities should also engage with community leaders or associations to learn more about the movement of foreigners in the villages or if there are locals in cahoots with them, he adds.
"It can be in the form of a dialogue, meetings or forums to find a solution to this problem."
Foreigners are only allowed to plant or sell vegetables if they own a government-registered private limited company, according to an officer with the Immigration Department.
"They would also need to produce acknowledgements from the local agricultural authorities on their ability to run proper agricultural activity within the state.
"Otherwise, foreigners could work as labourers in the agricultural sector but only if they are employed by locals.
"As labourers, these foreigners are not allowed to rent land or trade vegetables on their own," says the officer who declined to be named.
Locals who rent their land to foreigners, too, could be charged for harbouring illegal immigrants.
Joachim says if locals are informed of the consequences of such violations, they may think twice before renting their land or stalls to foreigners.