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. 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 so that they can be released immediately by Malaysian immigration authorities.
We were informed that these little ones have been languishing in detention since 14 June 2019 after a raid was conducted at Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang by immigration officers. It so happened that the mothers who possessed valid visas were not at home when the undocumented toddlers were seized from their relatives.
Details of the Filipino children’s plight were sourced from Tenaganita, a migrant centre based in Malaysia that is directly dealing with their case. Tenaganita has long been a partner of Migrante International in working for migrants’ rights and welfare. Like Migrante International, Tenaganita is also an active member of the International Migrants Alliance or IMA. 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.
Both the Philippines and Malaysia are state parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that mandates countries to protect children against all forms of punishment even on the basis of status. 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. We view this as a harsh course of criminalizing human life just because they happen to be undocumented children from migrant families.
Scientific studies have shown 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. In this view, we reject state policies that countenance the detention and separation of children from their parents for immigration reasons. Not only is this a manifestation of heartlessness and severe cruelty but we feel petrified that such laws even exist.
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.
We call on the Duterte government and the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure the prompt release of these little children from detention so that they can be reunited with their family. In the same manner, we urge the Malaysian immigration authorities to hand the children back to their parents’ custody from whom they will be assured of receiving care and fond supervision as they work on their immigration documents.