Govt mulls alternative care for underaged children of detained illegal immigrants

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the Dewan Rakyat that his ministry is in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the Dewan Rakyat that his ministry is in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Putrajaya may introduce a pilot project that will provide better care for immigrant minors whose parents or guardians are locked up in detention centres, the home minister told Parliament today.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the Dewan Rakyat that his ministry is in talks with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to look for an alternative to detaining the children along with their illegal immigrant parents.

“I agree with Petaling Jaya that there is a need to improve the system so we can reach the same level as other countries,” he replied backbencher Maria Chin Abdullah who highlighted the case of two undocumented Filipino toddlers who were held at the Bukit Jalil Immigration detention centre recently.

In a supplementary question, Maria asked if Malaysia will follow the footsteps of nations such as Indonesia and Singapore where the children of detainees are sent to shelters instead of being placed in the immigration depot or holding facilities.

Muhyiddin said the proposed pilot project is still at the discussion stage.

“However, the crux of the matter is that we have agreed to allocate a large budget for each [child] detainee and place them in the care of the Women’s Ministry as they have experts on childcare,” he said.

Muhyiddin agreed with Maria that the children should not have been detained, but also said he understood the dilemma faced by the Immigration Department officers who found the toddlers during a night raid at the Plaza Indah apartment in Kajang, Selangor on June 14.

He noted that though the children’s mother has a valid visa, she was not around at the time of the detention and the toddlers were in the care of relatives with dubious travel documents.

“I was told the children were with two guardians who did not adhere to immigration regulations. So it was not proper for us to leave the children there without any guardian.

“When they were taken to this depot, we decided to place them close to their family and guardians to ensure they were not neglected. Even though it is called a depot, the facility we used isolates them from other detainees and is suitable for children.

“This gives them a level of comfort because in Bukit Jalil they have proper beds, a nursery/playroom, and a playground,” said Muhyiddin.