Two Filipino children, both under the age of two, are being held under “tormenting conditions” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia since June 14 when they were seized from relatives, Migrante International reported.
The babies have been languishing in detention since Malaysian immigration officers conducted a raid at Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang, the group said, adding that while they are “undocumented” their mothers possessed valid visas.
The mothers were not at home when the children were taken into custody.
Migrante expressed alarm that children subjected to such ordeal are certainly susceptible to psychological stress and emotional trauma which can lead to life-long behavioral consequences.
“In this view, we reject state policies that countenance the detention and separation of children from their parents for immigration reasons. Not only is this a manifestation of heartlessness and severe cruelty but we feel petrified that such laws even exist,” Migrante said in a statement.
Malaysian migrant center Tenaganita confirmed in a separate statement that the two babies are being held at Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Tenaganita added that Malaysian authorities have refused to release the babies to their mothers despite interventions by the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and YB Hannah Yeoh of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
“Tenaganita would like to point out that holding children and babies at detention centres violates the spirit of the Convention On The Rights of the Child (Article 37 b, c.) to which Malaysia is a party. The convention requires that the best interests of the child are given paramount importance,” the group said.
“The continued detention of the toddlers/babies has also violated the (Malaysian) Child Act 2001 that recognizes the right to protection and assistance in all situation to children regardless of race, color, gender, language and religion,” it added.
Tenaganita said the babies have been deprived of the care of their mothers and held in less than hospitable conditions for the last 20 days with no end in sight to their plight.
“We would therefore urge that this matter be treated with urgency and that the babies be handed over to the custody of their mothers or any shelters which is better equipped to care for the toddlers/babies until the immigration department is able to provide the necessary documents for the babies to be deported,” Tenaganita said.
Tenaganita stressed that babies and toddlers should not be kept in any detention or holding centres and demanded their immediate release.
Due for release
Malaysian Immigration Department Director-General Khairul Dzaimee Daud, however, said Tuesday that the two Filipino babies will be released and deported back to the Philippines today.
“The babies will be released and deported to their country by tomorrow, July 3, 2019,” Khairul told Malaysian news outfit Malay Mail.
The official assured Malay Mail that basic facilities are provided for the babies and shared several photos of children playing in the nursery room at the centre.
Tenaganita executive director Glorene Dass, however, lamented that the detention centre officers claimed to have no knowledge of such a deportation order that as of Tuesday afternoon.
“This lack of communication and coordination between the different units in the Immigration Department, either intentionally or because of internal procedures, is distressing,” Dass told Malaysian journalists.
Dass told Malay Mail Dass said that the mothers of the two babies are distraught as they have been given no access to see their children for 20 days.
Migrante said undocumented migrant children come from families who have fled from socio-economic hardships in the Philippines and are vulnerable to experience rights violations from traffickers, immigration officers and even States.
Migrante reminded that Malaysia and the Philippines are state parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that mandates countries to protect children against all forms of punishment even on the basis of status. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)