Nearly 300,000 Stateless Children Call Malaysia Home

Nearly 300,000 Stateless Children Call Malaysia Home

There are 290,437 stateless children residing in Malaysia currently without citizenship. Experts say statelessness leaves children vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.

There are 290,437 stateless children residing in Malaysia currently without citizenship.

Aged between one and 18, they were born in Malaysia but do not possess Malaysian citizenship, according to Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in response to N Surendran.

When asked for the racial breakdown of these stateless children, he said that children were categorised based on their  He, however, said the race of the stateless children was not included as they were categorised based on their parents’ country of origin.

He said this to a supplementary question by Surendran on the racial breakdown of the stateless children.

“The bulk of these stateless children have parents from Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar,” he said.

These parents are usually refugees or migrants. There are also stateless children from the remote communities in the jungle interior and the descendants of ethnic Indians who so far have not managed to obtain citizenship.

With no official status, these children cannot travel, attend government schools or use the public health system, even if adopted by a Malaysian citizen. Without documentation, they are also at risk of detention, they cannot vote and it is difficult for them to seek legal employment. 

Experts say statelessness leaves children vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.

The Malaysian system for obtaining citizenship is somewhat complex, and many a time, citizenship is rejected without any reason whatsoever. Some adoptive parents frustrated with the system refer to it as a "bureaucratic black hole".

Last week, it was reported that a task force has been set up to address the issue of stateless people in Sarawak.

Sarawak 4 Sarawakians chief Peter John Jaban, stated this in a joint statement with the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia).

Peter John Jaban, chief of Sarawak 4 Sarawakians states that with this task force, he hoped to have these cases solved within a month instead of waiting two years for an application to be processed in Putrajaya.

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Penulis

Hanna Lee

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