PUTRAJAYA: The Immigration Department supports the plan to have an “alternative to detention” facilities for children of illegal immigrants, but says such premises must be able to accommodate parents or guardians of the children.
Director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the children could not be separated from those who were taking care of them, be it their parents or guardians.
“This is a good initiative, but the facilities must be able to also house guardians of these children.
"Separating them is an offence,” he said when met at a Hari Raya do on Thursday (July 4).
Earlier in Parliament, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government was mulling doing away with the detention of undocumented children of illegal immigrants at immigration detention centres.
He also said the Home Ministry was in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to implement a pilot project called "Alternative to Detention".
According to Immigration records, there are 363 children aged 12 and below in its detention centres nationwide.
The majority of them are children whose parents are Indonesians, Bangladeshis and Myanmarese.
On the case, where two Filipino children were in a detention centre for 20 days, Khairul said the period during which they were placed there was within the department's standard operating procedure.
He said the Immigration Department had the authority to remand a person for 14 days and after obtaining a deportation order, it had another seven days to send an illegal immigrant home.
He said in the case of the two children, they were detained on June 14 along with their guardian who had no legal document.
"The children's mother has a valid work permit. We made attempts to contact her, and she came to visit the children on June 24," he said.
The children obtained their travelling document on June 27 and returned to the Philippines with their mother on Wednesday (July 3).