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KOTA KINABALU: Foreigners in Sabah will be registered under a two-week amnesty programme but they will not be legalised and must return home.

State Secretary Datuk Sukarti Wakiman said those who entered Sabah illegally would be allowed to register at nine centres from July 18.

"However, the state government has decided to drop the legalisation component as there have been four such exercises previously.

"The government feels that there have been enough opportunities for immigrants in the state to legalise their stay,” said Sukarti.

The registration, he added, could be extended for another two weeks if necessary, to be followed by a two-month amnesty for them to return home voluntarily.

"After returning home, they can seek to come and work in Sabah legally.

"That is, they should have the necessary documents,” he said after the state Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman.

Sabah Immigration Department director Mohammed Mantek, who briefed the state Cabinet about the amnesty programme, said the move was taken to prevent foreigners from coming in illegally.

"It is also to discourage foreign workers from switching employers during this period,” he said, adding that the exercise would be carried out at community halls in Kudat, Menggatal, Ranau, Keningau, Sipitang, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Inabah in Semporna.

Foreigners who legalised their stay in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia would not be allowed to work in Sabah, he said.

He said that after registration, each foreigner would be given a certificate to show that they had participated in the programme and that this would be for free as no agent had been appointed for the exercise in Sabah.