Malaysia: 2 Filipino Babies to be released from Detention Center

Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
190702-MY-immigration-1000.JPG The Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Center in Kuala Lumpur houses toddlers who will be returned Wednesday to the Philippines, March 28, 2017.

Updated at 11:12 a.m. ET on 2019-07-03

Two Filipino babies seized during a law-enforcement raid and held away from their parents for 18 days will be sent home to the Philippines on Wednesday, Malaysia’s immigration chief said Tuesday.

Malaysian authorities confirmed that the babies would be “deported” hours after a local human rights group, Tenaganita, issued a statement alleging that authorities had been keeping them at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Center in Kuala Lumpur since June 14.

The detention center gained notoriety in March 2017 when documents from the government-funded National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) showed that it was among the nation’s immigration facilities where more than 100 foreigners had died from diseases and unknown causes over a period of nearly two years.

“The babies will be released and deported to their country by tomorrow, July 3, 2019,” Immigration Department Director-General Khairul Dzaimee Daud told BenarNews.

Khairul declined to explain why the children were detained, but said “basic facilities” had been provided.

Glorene Das, Tenaganita’s executive director, demanded their immediate release, saying detention was unconscionable.

The toddlers, younger than 2 and undocumented, were detained following an immigration raid on June 14 at an apartment complex in Kajang, about 20 km (12.5 miles) southwest of Kuala Lumpur, according to Das. At the time of the raid, the babies were being cared for by a relative while their mothers, who possess valid visas, were not at their apartments, Das said. It was not immediately clear why the parents were not at home.

Das alleged that the immigration department refused to release the babies despite intervention from the Philippine Embassy and Hannah Yeoh, deputy minister of Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development.

“The babies have been deprived of the care of their mothers and held in less than hospitable conditions,” Das said, adding that the detention of the toddlers violated child rights.

Immigration authorities told the mothers that they can accompany their babies to the Philippines if they have travel documents issued by the Philippine embassy, Das said.

Despite repeated inquiries by the mothers and an attorney representing the Philippine Embassy, immigration detention officials said they had no knowledge of a deportation order and were awaiting instructions from higher authorities, she said.

Two years ago, Reuters reported that data provided by the Malaysian immigration department to Suhakam showed there were 83 deaths in 2015 and at least 35 from Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, 2016. The documents said pneumonia, heart-related conditions and bacterial disease were among the causes of death.

The Malaysian home ministry, which oversees the immigration department, had said it was trying to improve conditions in the centers despite facing budget constraints, according to reports.

Citing interviews with 13 former detainees and 12 others who have regularly visited the centers, Reuters said the detainees were not provided adequate food, water or health care and many had developed skin infections. Of the 118 people recorded to have died in 2015 and 2016, at least 63 were from Myanmar and five were Indonesians, the report said.

Yeoh said children, especially infants younger than 2, should not be detained.

“Children do not belong in detention centers,” she told the Malay Mail news portal.

Aminah Farid in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

Updated to add that the children were "undocumented," according to the rights group Tenaganita.


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