PUTRAJAYA: Groundwork still needs to be done before the Home Ministry shifts children out of Immigration detention depots to welfare organisations, says Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
The Home Minister said that his ministry is in the midst of identifying how many children were being held at these detention centers.
When asked for a rough estimate on how many children are expected to be moved, he said it was too early to answer.
"Our secretary-general has been instructed to get the ball rolling. Let them do their work first," he told reporters following the Home Ministry monthly assembly on Wednesday (March 22).
On Feb 15, Saifuddin said children would soon be removed from detention at Immigration depots and placed in the care of organisations that specialise in child welfare.
He was later quoted saying children should not be detained at Immigration depots, adding that discussions were being held with several agencies on how to resolve the issue, including the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
Saifuddin then said it was necessary to look at laws that could be invoked to remove the children from the depots and place them elsewhere.
He was also quoted denying that his decision to remove children detained at Immigration depots was a reaction to an incident in Lenggong recently.
On Feb 3, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) expressed concern over the fate of the children who were among those detained during a recent raid at an illegal settlement in Negri Sembilan.
They were among 67 Indonesians without travel documents who were detained during a joint raid on Feb 1 carried out by several government agencies in a secluded area which had been turned into a settlement in Nilai.
Those detained are between two months and 72 years of age and of those arrested, 11 were men, 20 women and the rest being children.