Bid to free Rohingya children from detention

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KUALA LUMPUR ― Lawyers are seeking the release of seven Rohingya children from detention by Immigration authorities in Kedah that has stretched to seven months since they arrived in Malaysia.

The children, including two girls, reached Langkawi on a boat with 56 people on April 3. The boys are aged 10 to 14 while one girl is aged 14 and the other five.

A news report said the 56 people comprised 19 men, 17 women, 12 girls and eight boys.

According to the lawyers, the seven children were detained on arrival and transferred to the Belantik Immigration depot in Kedah where they have
remained since.

“These minors who are as young as five years old have been in detention for more than seven months now and attempts to get access to them by UNHCR, lawyers and family members had not been successful at the time the application was filed,” the legal team said in a statement yesterday, referring to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Most of them are unaccompanied minors.”

Lawyers for the seven children had filed a habeas corpus application at the Alor Star High Court in Kedah on Sept 10 to challenge their detention and secure their release.

The application is by the seven children against the Belantik Immigration depot’s commandant, the Kedah Immigration department’s director, the Immigration director-general and the Home Ministry.

In the application sighted by Malay Mail, the lawyers are seeking for the courts to order that the seven children be brought before the judiciary and subsequently released.

They are also seeking a ruling that the children’s continued detention is illegal and against their rights under the Federal Constitution and the Child Act 2001, read together with Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Among other things, Article 22 states that countries who signed the convention should take appropriate measures to ensure a child seeking refugee status receives protection and humanitarian assistance. Malaysia has ratified this convention.

The lawyers also want the High Court to safeguard the children against rearrest or further detention due to their Immigration status when they are released.

Alternatively, they are seeking that the seven be released and placed at a children’s shelter until they are reunited with their families or based on terms decided by the court.

The lawyer also highlighted that the Rohingya children’s indefinite detention is invalid as they may not be deported due to their statelessness.

The habeas corpus application will be heard by judge Datuk Ghazali Cha at the High Court in Alor Star on Sunday.

The lawyers for the children are Collin Andrew, Chan Yen Hui and Lee Shee Pin, who have been working together on this case with UNHCR for free.