KOTA KINABALU: Manila has made it a top priority to help the 43 “stateless” children of Filipino descent kept at the Menggatal detention centre here since early last month.
Philippines Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Brillantes said his embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been directed to immediately determine the citizenship status of the children, aged between four and 16.
“If they are found to be our citizens, then steps will be taken to repatriate them by providing them the necessary documentation,” he said when contacted in Manila yesterday.
He said they were also in consultation with human rights groups in Manila as well as with Malaysian authorities to discuss the situation over the children – mainly street kids picked up by Kota Kinabalu Immigration Department officers during an operation in the city.
“Our embassy is on top of it. My office has been in constant touch with them over the matter,” he added.
The “stateless” position of the children came to light after a visit by a Suhakam Commissioner to the Menggatal detention centre on Sept 15 where they were found kept with adult detainees.
The children have since been separated from the adults.
The Immigration Department was asked to determine the status of the children who had produced various photocopies of Malaysian birth certificates as well as documents related to the IMM 13 permit that allowed Filipino refugees to reside in Sabah.
Philippines Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that steps were being taken to protect the children and reunite them with their families as soon as possible.
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