KUALA LUMPUR: Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today defended the actions of the immigration in detaining Filipino children along with other individuals with no valid identification documents, despite objections from NGOs.
Muhyiddin said it was not right for the authorities to leave the children unsupervised, in the event adults are placed in detention.
He said during immigration operations on June 14, the officer on duty found two children with their guardians as well as several others for violating immigration laws.
However, at that time, authorities failed to get in touch with the parents of the children and therefore they were brought to the immigration headquarters in Putrajaya for documentation, before placing them at the Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre.
“Yes, we agree they should not have been detained, but in cases like this, they were with guardians who had broken the law.
“But in this case, it would not have been right for us to leave the children unsupervised,” he told the Dewan Rakyat today.
Muhyiddin was responding to a question by Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya), who said it was an offence to detain and confine children as it went against the convention on the rights of children.
Muhyiddin said the Bukit Jalil detention centre actually provided a comfortable space for children, including bedding facilities.
“We call it a depot, but in there, we isolate them from other detainees to enable them to live comfortably.
“For instance, there are beds, a play area, among others,” he said.
He said that on June 24, the biological mother of the baby presented herself at the immigration headquarters for identification purposes.
“The Immigration Department received the children’s travel documents from the Philippine embassy yesterday (July 3), and they were subsequently released to their mother and sent back to their home country,” he said.
Muhyiddin later said there was room for the government and the immigration to improve in the way they handle children, and will introduce standard operating procedures to better tackle such cases.
Tenaganita recently objected to the detention of the children, calling it inhumane.
The NGO said the children were detained at the depot, even when the Philippines embassy, as well as the women, family and community development ministry, intervened.
Tenaganita claimed that the embassy was unable to hand over the children’s travel documents as they were waiting for the deportation documents from the Bukit Jalil detention centre.