MALAYSIA – The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has welcomed the government’s decision to place children held in immigration depots under the care of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that specialize in child welfare.

Datuk Rahmat Mohamad, SUHAKAM chairman, said in a statement issued on 17 February that the move is in line with the commission’s recommendation to implement Alternatives to Detention (ATD) for children who are detained together with their parents or guardians due to immigration offenses.

He called on the authorities to ensure that children are no longer placed in immigration depots.

“As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysia is obliged to ensure that the detention of a child shall be used as a measure of last resort, in particular when they were detained together with their parents or guardians due to immigration offenses,” said Mohamad.

Under the ATD programme, children will be temporarily housed in a safe and healthy place while waiting for their immigration status to be determined.

Malaysia’s Home Minister, Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, announced on 16 February that his ministry would soon shift children held at the Immigration Detention Depot to the care of NGOs specializing in children’s welfare. He confirmed that he has already identified the profile of the children, their numbers, and where they were detained.

“Very soon, I will bring them out. I have been dealing with NGOs that are involved in providing welfare services to children,” said Saifuddin.

Two weeks ago, SUHAKAM expressed concern about the welfare of 36 children placed at the Lenggeng immigration depot after a raid on an undocumented migrant settlement in Nilai Springs, Negeri Sembilan. The commission reminded the authorities that Malaysia is obligated to secure the best interests of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In addition, Saifuddin announced that an eight-year-old Bangladeshi boy who was found in a container at West Port, Port Klang last month, would be sent home next week.

The Home Minister said that the child’s family had been located, and all the necessary documentation had been completed at the embassy.

The boy had been playing hide-and-seek with friends when he accidentally got trapped inside the shipping container, which traveled over a thousand miles and ended up on Malaysian soil on the MV Integra, which had departed from Chittagong on 12 January and arrived at Klang’s Westport on 17 January.

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