Arbitrary Detention of Migrant and Refugee Children (SUARAM)

Press Statement: 28 August 2009

SUARAM is appalled at the increasing number of child migrants detained at Immigration Detention Centres in the past five years. We have received shocking statistics that were released by the Home Ministry in a written reply to a Parliamentary question in the last June/July 2009 Parliament session. In the question, YB Liew Chin Tong asked the Home Ministry to state the number of individuals below the age of 18 who were arrested in all 13 Immigration Detention Centres according to nationality, gender and age in the past five years.

Malaysia has ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is thus obligated to protect all children, including migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children. In the 2007 Concluding Observations of the Committee of the Rights of the Child, the Committee has expressed concerns over various aspects of migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children including detention. The Committee specifically recommends the Malaysian Government to stop detention of children in relation to Immigration proceedings and to develop a legislative framework for the protection of asylum-seeking and refugee children.

The Malaysian Government has to fulfill its obligation to protect the rights of children, regardless of the child’s citizenship. In addition, the Government is obligated to provide protection to asylum seeking and refugee children as according to Article 22 of the CRC.

SUARAM calls on the Government to stop arrests of migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children and their family and to release children who are currently detained in Immigration Detention Centres. According to Article 37 of the CRC, the Government shall use detention only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible.

If detention is necessary, we urge the Government to place children in welfare homes together with both their parents. We stress that under no circumstances should children be separated from their parents. Article 9 of the CRC states that the Government must ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will. Separating the children from their parents is and can be highly damaging to their psychological and emotional health.

Article 19 of the CRC states that the Government is under an obligation to take all appropriate measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of the Immigration Detention Centre. We strongly call upon the Government to ensure that the children are secure and not subjected to any violence or negligent treatment during arrest and detention.

We also call upon the Government to act on the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to develop legislation for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees.

SUARAM reiterates once again that the Malaysian Government must seek to protect the rights of all children, including non-citizen children that currently reside in our country.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

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