PETALING JAYA: Immigration detention centres are no place for kids, says the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in its push for alternatives to detention (ATD) for children.
Suhakam had reiterated its position to the Federal Government about having a separate facility from detention centres for unaccompanied or separated children, said chairman Tan Sri Othman Hashim.
Suhakam commissioner Datuk Lok Yim Pheng said the body had held several discussions with the government this year, including the Home Ministry, to discuss providing ATD for these children.
“We also want to ensure that these children are given equal opportunities like other children to go to school and have basic healthcare,” Lok told a press conference yesterday.
There are currently 363 children aged 12 and below in detention centres nationwide, said Suhakam in a press statement.
It also called on the government to provide ATD for children in immigration detention, an idea it first proposed in 2015 to the previous administration.
Last year, Suhakam appealed to the Home Minister to implement the ATD pilot project.
It added that despite a recent statement by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the Home Ministry was in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to implement ATD on a trial basis that the government had agreed to fund, there had since been no progress.
Suhakam commissioner Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh urged the government to start ATD for children as the latter did not belong in detention centres.
“We cannot tolerate having children in detention centres,” she said at the press conference, which was held after a meeting chaired by Othman.
It was the first meeting held by the eight commissioners, whose appointments were announced by the government last month.
In another development, Suhakam commissioner Datuk Seri Mah Weng Kwai said Suhakam would soon decide on the matter of holding a public inquiry into the disappearance of married couple Pastor Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu.
A Suhakam inquiry held last year to look into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat as well as Joshua and Ruth, saw only the first two cases being concluded.