Kota Kinabalu (The Star/ANN) - Lijah Daliara left her homeland of Tawi Tawi over four decades ago and has no more ties with the village after she and her family, like thousands of others, fled the civil war in southern Philippines.
A Bajau-Ubian, Lijah said Sabah had become home for her, adding that all her five children and grandchildren were born in the state.
"I am settled here; I don't have any interest in going back to the Philippines," said Lijah, who lives at the Kinarut refugee settlement, about 40 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu.
The latest peace deal between the Philippines government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not about to alter her decision.
"I hope the Malaysian government will not force us to leave Sabah," said Lijah, who holds a special IMM13, an immigration visitor pass issued to refugees and their families.
According to Immigration Department statistics, there are about 60,000 registered Filipino refugees and their families in the state, most of whom are in four refugee settlements in Telipok, Kinarut, Tawau and Sandakan.
Like Lijah, who works as a domestic helper, many are reluctant to return to their homeland that continues to be torn by violence and kidnappings.
Some have become naturalised Malaysian citizens over the years.
Tawi Tawi governor Sadikul Sahali, whose island is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), created through a 1996 peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNFL), said they needed to look into the details of the deal.
"We are all for peace. We are tired of the fighting (but) you never know if another splinter group will be formed and make the same demand for a separate state," he said, pointing out that MILF was a breakaway faction of the MNLF which signed the peace accord in September 1996.