Hundreds of thousands of Filipino migrants reside illegally in Malaysia, many of them in the eastern state of Sabah, which is separated from the Southern Philippines by the Sulu Sea. Malaysians have attributed the rising crime rate in Sabah to illegal immigrants. In 2000, Muslim rebels from the southern Philippines abducted 3 Malaysians in Sabah, not the first such incident. Malaysia, concerned over the increased piracy and kidnappings, had since launched a campaign to rid Sabah of illegal immigrants.
In 2002, the Philippines Government filed a formal complaint to the Malaysian authorities concerning allegations it is mistreating thousands of Filipino illegal immigrants. The Filipino press reported the rape of Filipina detainees, including minors, by Malaysian prison guards. On September 4th, Philippines President Arroyo wrote a letter to the Malaysian Prime Minister complaining of the rape of a 13 year old Filipina in detention. Malaysia has offered to investigate the case.