KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — The High Court today ordered the Malaysian government and the Immigration Department to immediately set free a Johor-born mother and her three young Selangor-born children from their detention in an immigration depot.
The young family of four, who are all stateless, had been detained for the past four months now while waiting for their court challenge against their detention which they said was unlawful.
High Court judge Datuk Noorin Badaruddin today ruled in favour of the four’s court challenge against their unlawful detention, and ordered that “the four applicants be released immediately.”
One of their lawyers, New Sin Yew, confirmed to Malay Mail the High Court’s decision immediately following a hearing on the mother and her three children’s habeas corpus application: “Judge allowed the application and ordered that the applicants be released immediately.”
Asked about his clients, New said: “Their family, who are all here, are happy that they will be out today or tomorrow.”
Lawyer Beatrice Chin also represented the mother and the three children in the hearing today, while deputy public prosecutor Siti Ruvinna Mohd Rawi represented the immigration officials, the home minister and the Malaysian government.
Later, New confirmed to Malay Mail that the mother and the three children were released at around 6pm today from the Bukit Jalil immigration depot.
How a stateless Malaysia-born family found itself in immigration detention
The 36-year-old mother — identified only as D to protect her and her children’s identities — was born in a government hospital in Johor Baru.
As she was born to a couple originally from Indonesia but with permanent resident status in Malaysia, D should have been entitled to Malaysian citizenship under the Federal Constitution as she was born in Malaysia to a mother who was a Malaysian PR at the time of her birth.
On July 1, the Immigration Department arrested and detained the mother D and her three children, and had kept them at the Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre since then.
The three children — who have birth certificates to show their birth in either clinics or hospitals in Selangor — were stated to be aged 12, 11 and seven.
The three children were receiving education opportunities from the non-profit organisation Buku Jalanan Chow Kit, as they cannot attend government schools to receive primary education due to their stateless status.
On the request of the grandmother who had a Malaysian PR status, Buku Jalanan Chow Kit’s founder Siti Rahayu Baharin had stepped in on July 1 to help by writing to the Immigration Department to seek the three children’s release, but there was no reply from the authorities.
The grandmother later found out that Immigration had decided to detain D as the National Registration Department had rejected her bid to renew her temporary identification documents, and that the children were detained together with D as they are all aged below 12.
On July 14, the Immigration authorities informed the grandmother’s lawyers that the Immigration Department would be deporting the young family of four to Indonesia.
On July 15, D and her three children filed the habeas corpus application to seek to be freed from Immigration detention, naming the four respondents as the Bukit Jalil immigration depot chief, the Immigration director-general, the home minister and the Malaysian government.
The family of four had also on July 15 applied for the stay order to prevent their removal from Malaysia before the court decided on their challenge against the alleged unlawful detention, explaining that they are all stateless persons born in Malaysia and have never left the country their entire lives.
On July 21, High Court judicial commissioner Roz Mawar Rozain granted an interim stay which maintained the status quo for the mother and her three children.
The stay, which was not objected to by the government, ensured that the Immigration Department would not deport the four to Indonesia while they were waiting for the High Court to hear their challenge against their allegedly unlawful detention.
Previously in court documents, the grandmother said she believed D and the three children were not detained because they had not committed any crimes, and highlighted her concern that they could be forcibly sent to Indonesia even though they had never entered Indonesia and have no family members in Indonesia.
The grandmother had said her daughter and grandchildren have “legitimate expectation” to not be sent to Indonesia as they have never left Malaysia since their birth, and also said that she was advised by lawyers that D and her three children are all entitled to Malaysian citizenship under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution and that they would take the necessary legal action to have their citizenship rights recognised.
Yayasan Chow Kit’s founder and child rights activist, Datuk Hartini Zainudin had on July 18 wrote on Twitter about the plight of D and her three children, noting that the Malaysia-born D is the only one of her siblings without the blue identity card denoting Malaysian citizenship, and also questioned why the Immigration authorities had yet to release the three children from detention.
When contacted by Malay Mail, Buku Jalanan Chow Kit's Siti Rahayu said she cried when she found out that the three children had finally been released from detention today, stressing the importance of giving children a "chance" and for the law to champion children.
"The rule of law is important in protecting children, so we really need to reform laws that give a win to children. Because children matter, children need to be given a hope," she said.