Migrante: Filipino toddlers languishing in Malaysian jail
MANILA, Philippines — Filipino children below the age of two have been “continually incarcerated” at an immigration detention facility in Malaysia, a migrants group said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Migrante International said that these Filipino children have been “languishing in detention” at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre in Kuala Lumpur since June 14, 2019 following a raid by its immigration officers at the Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang in Malaysia.
“Migrante International is appalled at the tormenting conditions of babies and toddlers who are continually incarcerated at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,” the group said in a statement.
“These are innocent Filipino children below the age of 2 who badly need immediate response from the Duterte government and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) so that they can be released immediately by Malaysian immigration authorities,” it added.
Migrante International noted that the Filipino children’s mothers, who are holders of valid visas, were not home when the undocumented toddlers were seized from their relatives.
Both the Philippines and Malaysia are state parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, which mandates countries to protect children against all forms of punishment even on the basis of status, the group noted.
“It is disheartening to know that the lack of communication and coordination among immigration units in Malaysia contributes further to the unbearable misery of these detained children and their distressed parents,” Migrante International said.
“We view this as a harsh course of criminalizing human life just because they happen to be undocumented children from migrant families,” it added.
The group, likewise, rejected “state policies that countenance the detention and separation of children from their parents for immigration reasons.”
This as they cited scientific studies which showed that “children subjected to these kinds of excruciating ordeal are certainly susceptible to psychological stress and emotional trauma which can lead to life-long behavioral consequences.”
“Not only is this a manifestation of heartlessness and severe cruelty but we feel petrified that such laws even exist,” the group said.
“Most of these migrant children come from families who have fled from socio-economic hardships in the Philippines and are therefore vulnerable to experience rights violations from traffickers, immigration officers and even from the state which is supposed to guard and preserve the well being of all children regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity and even immigration status or the absence thereof,” it added.
In this regard, Migrante International called on the Philippine government to guarantee that these children are released immediately.
“We call on the Duterte government and the [DFA] to ensure the prompt release of these little children from detention so that they can be reunited with their family,” it said.
The group also issued an appeal to Malaysian immigration authorities that the children be brought back to the custody of their parents “from whom they will be assured of receiving care and fond supervision as they work on their immigration documents.”
According to the group, information regarding the plight of the Filipino children were sourced from Tenaganita, a migrant center based in Malaysia that is directly dealing with their case.
“No attention could have been drawn to the anguish of Filipino babies and toddlers who are in detention if it were not for groups or institutions like Tenaganita that work for migrants’ rights,” the group said. (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)
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