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Malaysian Government Must Release Children From Immigration Detention And Implement Alternatives To Detention – OCC & ECDN

Malaysia must not only fulfil its international obligations but demonstrate its commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of every child, regardless of their migration status.

Photo by kabbagesaver from Pixabay.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 – On this year’s World Refugee Day on June 20, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) and the End Child Detention Network (ECDN) join hands to urge the Malaysian government to take immediate action towards ending the detention of children in immigration facilities and implementing effective Alternatives to Detention (ATD).

It is deeply concerning that as of May 15, 2023, 11,068 people, including 969 refugee children, are held in immigration detention in Malaysia. These children have fled violence, conflict, and persecution in their home countries, seeking safety and protection in our nation. It is our moral obligation to ensure their wellbeing and safeguard their rights.

We call upon the Malaysian government to embark on the following crucial steps:

  • Begin releasing children from immigration detention into an Alternative to Detention (ATD) program, and ensure the inclusion of all children, regardless of their migration status.                   
  • Ensure that ATD projects are implemented in good faith to achieve its primary objective, which is to resolve the issue of arrest and detention of children.
  • Urgently present the working paper on shifting children out of immigration detention depots in the Cabinet, a vital document currently being developed by the Home Ministry.
  • Develop a comprehensive legal framework for refugees that grants them legal status and access to employment, health services, education, and social, and public benefits. This framework is crucial in protecting refugee children and building an environment for their healthy development.
  • Grant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) unrestricted access to immigration detention centres. This will allow for the continued registration of persons of concern and the subsequent release of all individuals registered with UNHCR, facilitating their integration into the community.
  • Take immediate steps to enact legal and policy changes to halt the immigration detention of children, including all refugee and asylum-seeking children. 
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of immigration detention policies and practices to ensure they align with international legal and human rights standards. This review is imperative to safeguard the rights and well-being of all individuals at risk of immigration detention, particularly children.

By taking these significant steps, Malaysia will not only fulfil its international obligations but demonstrate its commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of every child, regardless of their migration status.

We firmly believe that these measures will bring us closer to a society that respects human rights, embraces diversity, and upholds the principles of compassion and justice.

As OCC and ECDN, we stand ready to collaborate with the Malaysian government and other stakeholders to develop and implement effective ATD solutions that prioritise the best interests of all children in Malaysia, including refugee and asylum-seeking children.

Together, let us work towards a future where no child is subjected to the harmful impacts of immigration detention, and where every child can thrive and realise their full potential.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Ova.

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