KUALA LUMPUR: The government is mulling doing away with the detention of undocumented children of illegal immigrants at immigration detention centres, says Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“I agree there is a need to improve our current system in line with that used by some countries.
“In this respect, the Home Ministry is in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to implement a pilot project called ‘Alternative to Detention’,” he said when answering a question raised by Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) during Minister's Question Time in Parliament on Thursday. (July 4).
He said the government had agreed in principle to provide funds for the project.
Muhyiddin said he had also directed Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud to implement a new standard operating procedure (SOP) with regard to cases involving the undocumented children of illegal immigrants.
“The Immigration Department has been told to give priority to cases involving children first before handling other cases,” he said.
In her question, Maria cited the recent detention of two Filipino toddlers at the Bukit Jalil Immigration detention centre since June 14.
She asked if the government would improve the treatment of undocumented children of illegal immigrant parents.
Maria said the detention of the two toddlers was against the Child Act 2001 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, which Malaysia had ratified.
“Indonesia and Singapore have stopped detaining undocumented children at immigration detention centres but place them in shelter homes run by non-governmental organisations,” she added.
Earlier, Muhyiddin told lawmakers that the toddlers had been reunited with their mothers on Wednesday (July 3) and returned home to Philippines on the same day.
He said the toddlers were taken into custody during an immigration enforcement operation when they were found with guardians who were suspected of being illegal immigrants.
He added the toddlers were taken into custody so that they would not be left alone without any supervision after their guardians failed to contact their mothers.
He said the toddlers were well cared for at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre, which had a special designated area, including a playground, for children.
Muhyiddin said the Philippines Embassy here was notified of their detention and helped process the relevant travel documents.