The two babies detained by Malaysian immigration officers in Kuala Lumpur arrived back in the Philippines with their mothers Wednesday night, ending nearly three weeks of ordeal in a foreign jail.
Arriving at the Manila International Airport on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH804 at 9:40 in the evening the babies, both of whom are under two years old, looked exhausted, Migrante International said in a statement.
“After spending weeks trembling in fear and torment, they are relieved to finally get back home and be reunited with their loved ones. The four children were clearly gripped by exhaustion,” Migrante reported
With them are two other toddlers, both under five years old, and their mothers, who were also detained at the Bukit Jalil Jail in the Malaysian capital, the group added.
Migrante said the four mother-child pairs appeared unsure after stepping out of the airport terminal and were relieved when approached by their staff and Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM) volunteers who introduced themselves as colleagues of Malaysian migrant center Tenaganita that campaigned for their release.
“With almost all of their belongings looted by wardens and immigration officers at Bukit Jalil, they only managed to carry with them small shoulder bags,” Migrante said in a statement.
WHAT WENT BEFORE: Malaysian immigration holds 2 Pinoy babies ‘under tormenting conditions’
The deported mothers revealed they suffered humiliation under the hands of their Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre custodians.
Ralyn (not her real name) said they underwent routine inspections every five minutes by “barking detention wardens and spiteful immigration officers” from 7AM to 12AM midnight the next day everyday.
Detainees were fed with “stale and burnt food good for swines,” she told Migrante.
Enny and Anita (real names withheld) also told Migrante that their cells were “cramped and filthy.”
The detainees said they were made to lie down on the cold floor surface and nobody was allowed to use any sleeping mats.
Detainees had only one set of clothes which they had to wash and wear every other day, the mothers told Migrante.
“Our rights as humans were violated! The female wardens acted as if they are not mothers themselves. They were vile and mean, treated us like animals. All the children always get terrified when they’re around,” Raly told Migrante.
The mothers complained that non-married or single detainees are constantly in handcuffs and any detainee inside the facility that is seen by immigration wardens as misbehaving is dealt with severely.
They recalled how a female detainee from Kenya who has been showing signs of psychosis was tied to the wall with both hands and was made to stand the whole day.
Even the children are not spared from verbal abuse by growling wardens and immigration officers, the detainees said, adding many of the young detainees were in need of medical attention.
“Almost all of the detainees are from poor countries,” Anita told Migrante.
According to Ralyn, most of their fellow detainees are from countries like Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria.
Malaysian Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud, for his part, said his office provided “basic facilities” for the children detained at the centre and showed Malaysian reporters of children playing at the detention centre’s nursery.
The Filipinos homecoming was started by Tenaganita whose press statements triggered an outcry for the release of the babies.
“[Our] press statement triggered a blast of anger and outrage from the Malaysian Public, Member of Parliaments and some Ministers who are our allies in the New Government,” Tenaganita executive director Glorene Dass told Kodao.
Dass said that both mainstream and alternative journalists in Malaysia, some of whom are Filipinos, picked up the story and published Tenaganita’s articles on the plight of the young detainees.
They also kept calling the immigrations authorities for statements, she said.
The social media scene was also lit up by the campaign “that helped tremendously,” Dass added.
Tenaganita, Migrante International and CWWM are active members of the International Migrants Alliance.
When asked for their future plans, the mothers told Migrante that going back overseas is still in the offing since they are not expecting to get decent paying jobs in the Philippines.
“Coming back to the Philippines presents the same problems of instability and peril to returning OFWs and migrant children,” Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion said.
Migrante said the all but one of the mothers and their children boarded provincial buses headed to their respective hometowns in Bataan and Laguna.
Ralyn chose to stay overnight in Manila at a place offered to her by CWWM before travelling to Bulacan this morning, Migrante said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)