Unreasonable to leave undocumented children without supervision, says Muhyiddin

04 Jul 2019 / 15:19 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has defended the decision to detain the two undocumented Filipino toddlers last month, claiming it would have been unreasonable for them to leave the children without supervision.

He said that during the immigration operation on June 14, officers found the two babies together with their guardian and several others, who had breached immigration laws.

However, at the time, the authorities failed to get in touch with the children’s biological parents, forcing them to take the two toddlers to the Immigration headquarters in Putrajaya for documentation, before placing them at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre.

“Yes, I agree that the babies shouldn’t have been detained. But in this case, it would be not be right for us to leave the two children without supervision,” he told the Dewan Rakyat, here, today.

He added the detention centre was a kids-friendly facility, as it included a nursery and playground.

Muhyiddin said it was only on June 24 that the children’s biological mothers presented themselves to immigration for the identification process, before the authorities were able to proceed with their deportation.

“The Immigration Department received the travel documents of the children from the Philippine Embassy on July 3, and they were later handed over to their mothers to be deported back to their home country,” he said.

Muhyiddin was replying to a question from Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) on why the two toddlers were left at the detention centre for a long period of time and whether the government intends to emulate other countries that sent undocumented children to shelter homes instead.

On Tuesday, non-governmental organisation Tenaganita executive director Glorene A. Das had alleged that the toddlers were being held at the detention centre despite intervention from the Philippine Embassy and the Malaysian government.

She claimed that the babies, who were being looked after by a relative as their mothers were not home, had been deprived of their mothers’ care and were held in less than hospitable conditions.

Muhyiddin acknowledged that the government and the immigration authorities could improve their methods of handling children, and that following the incident he had introduced a new standard operating procedure (SOP) to handle such cases.

“I have informed the Immigration director-general (Khairul Dzaimee Daud) that for cases involving children, it should be given priority, before other cases. This is a new SOP,” he added.

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