The Immigration Department will deport two undocumented children to their home country of Philippines tomorrow, the department’s director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud reportedly said.
This followed intervention from Putrajaya and pressure from civil society to expedite their release.
“The babies will be released and deported to their country by tomorrow, July 3, 2019,” he reportedly told The Malay Mail in a text message.
He also reportedly insisted that basic facilities are provided for children held at its detention facilities, and shared photos of children playing in the nursery room at the centre.
The pair of children, both under the age of two, have been held at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre since June 14.
The children were taken into custody during a raid at Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang, where they had been under the care of relatives.
Their mothers are Philippine citizens who hold valid Malaysian visas, but were not home at the time of the raid, said the migrant rights NGO Tenaganita in a statement earlier today.
"We urge that this matter be treated with urgency and that the babies be handed over to the custody of their mothers or any shelters which is better equipped to care for the babies until the Immigration Department is able to provide the necessary documents for the babies to be deported.
"No babies and toddlers should be in any detention or holding centres. We demand for their immediate release," Tenaganita director Glorene Das said.
She said the children had remained in detention despite intervention from the Philippines embassy and Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh.
Missing deportation papers
According to Glorene, the Immigration Department had said that the children would be released and deported to the Philippines along with their mothers once the Philippines embassy provided travel documents.
However, the embassy said they never received the deportation orders required for them to issue the travel documents, she added.
The Immigration Department's Investigation and Enforcement Unit told the mothers and an attorney appointed by the embassy that the orders were sent to the Bukit Jalil centre on June 27.
However, the detention centre officers purportedly did not know about the order and and said they were awaiting instructions from Putrajaya.
"This lack of communication and coordination between different units in the Immigration Department, either intentionally or because of internal procedures, is distressing," Glorene said.
"The babies have been deprived of the care of their mothers and held in less than hospitable conditions for the last 20 days with no end in sight to their plight."
She added that holding children in detention centres violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Malaysia is a party.
The detention centres have "intolerable and inhumane conditions", she said.
Last month, Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the RM3.5 million the government spends monthly to feed immigration detainees could be reduced if travel documents were prepared quickly.
However, Glorene said this case and others handled by Tenaganita shows that delays are likely due to Immigration procedures.
"There is need for a review of the internal standard operating procedures in order to ensure speedy deportation," she said.