In the early 70’s, people of Sulu, Mindanao and Palawan formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The purpose was to resist the maltreatment of the Philippine government against Muslims happened during the Jabidah Massacre in the Corrigedor Island, Philippines. The incident happened when a group of Tausug trainees massacred by the Philippine military in that Island as they refuse to invade Sabah under the special project named “Operation Merdeka”. The political science professor Nurrullaji Misuari reacted violently. As a result, he and some concern Muslims scholars from Sulu and Mindanao went to the ground to recruit the civilians and brilliant students to join the call for defensive Jihad against the republic. The qualified recruits then sent to the Middle East and Malaysia for military training. Prior to the MNLF, the Muslim rebels had already formed the group called Ansarul Islam. Most members of Ansarul Islam were becoming part of the MNLF later.

When the war broke up in the early 70’s, MNLF did get the support of Tun Mustapha back then he was the chief minister of Sabah. The Kampung Moro was opened as a temporary shelter for the families of the MNLF fighters and to receive wounded combatants from Sulu and Mindanao. Later on, the camp Jampiras followed also served as a camp of the MNLF and receiver of any assistance from the Middle East, and other purposes. From the start up to the end, Jampiras had served the purpose of the MNLF in Sabah. Moreover, the first batch of refugees arrived to Sabah starts during this period.

When the war in Sulu and Mindanao become intense, more displaced persons arrived in Sabah, most of them were relatives of the MNLF. In Sandakan, the displaced persons dwelling in some communities like Kampung BDC, Ramai-Ramai, Kampung Gelam and others. Others moved to Kota Kinabalu, Semporna, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Labuan. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) came in in coordination with the State government the resettlement areas for the refugees opened in Sandakan and other parts of Sabah. Those refugees living in different communities transferred to their new homes.

The life of the refugees in the resettlement areas was quite tough at the outset. They were forced to adapt to the new environment. Later on, the refugees had learned to live in Sabah and adopt the way of life of the Malaysian.

Without depending from the support of UNHCR the refugees survive through selling food in the market, working in the plantations, constructions, restaurants, and other businesses. The refugee children allowed to get an education from the primary government schools even without birth certificate. The chieftain of the refugee community provided its subjects with “Surat Sumpah” (Letter of Oath) used as required to enrol in government school. The refugee children enjoyed some benefits in school provided by the state government as the Malaysian pupils. Back then, the Yayasan Sabah provided free notebook, pencil, shoes, and milk for all pupils in the government schools. This subsidy is part of the foundation’s  objective “providing education and educational facilities for all Malaysians in Sabah; creating opportunities for a more equitable distribution of economic wealth among the people in Sabah; and providing aids to charitable institutions and victims of natural disasters.” (, 2016).
School named after the refugee community in Sandakan. This school have had
served the children of the Muslim refugees since early 80's up to now.

As part of the new members of Society in Sabah, the state government issued documents to the refugees. These are the so called BANCI (Pasukan Petugas Khas), UPJKM or Burung-Burung and DAFTAR (Unit Penempatan di Jabatan Ketua Menteri)EXPO (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara)KAD POLIS (Polis Di Raja Malaysia), and SPECIAL PASS (Jabatan Imigresen). Later on, these documents changed to IMM13 or Social Visit Pass issued by the Immigration Department of Malaysia specifically to the refugees arrived in Sabah in the early 80’s. This IMM13 is renewable every year for 90.00 Malaysian Ringgit. The holder of this document can travel and work around Sabah and Labuan.

After decades, staying in Sabah some IMM13 holders managed to change their status of refugees to Permanent Resident through the legal way sanctioned by Malaysian constitution. Moreover, some IMM13 holders still have hope that someday they could change their status.

When the Final Peace agreement (FPA) between the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines signed in 1996, the refugees had high hoped that their fate would be changed. But, the situation happened to the FPA had somewhat broke the hearts of the refugees in Sabah. Until now, the refugees are not stopping to hope that someday they would be going home most likely when peace and development already stable.