BARMM braces for Filipino deportees from Malaysia
The biohazard protection supplies the Bangsamoro government shipped to Zamboanga City for distribution to COVID-19 frontliners in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Philstar.com/John Unson

BARMM braces for Filipino deportees from Malaysia

John Unson (Philstar.com) - July 4, 2020 - 4:02pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Officials are anticipating the possibility that some of the more than 5,000 Filipinos — among them Bangsamoro residents — Malaysia have started deporting could be afflicted with COVID-19.

Chief Minister Hadji Murad Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said Saturday they now have a team in Zamboanga City to help facilitate the return of some deportees to the five BARMM provinces.

The Bangsamoro region covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where there are now almost 200 COVID-19 cases.

“We have to make sure that deportees returning to the provinces under our jurisdiction are screened properly for COVID-19 and assisted properly in their return to their hometowns,” Ebrahim said.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM’s local government minister, said the team they dispatched to Zamboanga City also brought with them biohazard protection supplies for COVID-19 frontliners in the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi area.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees donated last week to the Bangsamoro government more than 30 boxes of biohazard protection supplies to complement its regional COVID-19 containment efforts.

The supplies were turned over to Ebrahim and Sinarimbo by representatives from the office of Mohamed Wahab, head of UNHCR’s Mindanao field office.

“The gesture of the UNHCR is so appreciated. It gave our anti-COVID-19 efforts a boost,” Sinarimbo said.

Malaysia is deporting no fewer than 5,000 undocumented Filipinos, according to reports by community newspapers and radio stations in the Zamboanga peninsula.

Sinarimbo said the team sent to Zamboanga City by the Bangsamoro government shall assist in the mandatory COVID-19 screening of the Filipinos returning from Malaysia via the Philippine southern backdoor.

He said BARMM officials are anticipating the possibility that some of them could be infected with coronavirus.

The group that BARMM deployed to Zamboanga City is comprised of employees of the regional government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence, or READI contingent operating under the supervision of Sinarimbo.

Employees of the provincial offices of BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government shall also assist in returning deportees to their respective hometowns in coordination with local health authorities.

“We should not be too confident or complacent. We must not disregard the possibility that some of these deportees could already be carriers of the coronavirus without them even knowing,” Sinarimbo said.

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