Friday, May 20, 2022

Red tape bars path to citizenship for parents with stateless children

Many are left waiting for years with no word from the government until their applications are finally rejected.

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Michael (not his real name) was brimming with hope when he submitted the application forms for his son’s citizenship in 2020.

While he had gone through the process several times before, he was hopeful that this attempt would be his last, and that his son would finally be given an IC.

But two years have passed and he is still waiting for word from the government.

The first time he went through this was seven years ago, in 2015.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said he had followed all of the procedures and filled up every form required, adding that the long years of silence had instilled in him a doubt of the system.

“The ministry never gave me an answer as to why the applications did not go through,” he said.

“They always refer to constitutional provision 15(A) which grants absolute power to the minister to reject or accept an application.”

Michael is one of many parents across the country fighting for their children’s right to citizenship.

Thousands of stateless children today face discrimination, abuse and unfair treatment, all due to their lack of a blue card.

Without proper documentation, they are unable to enrol in public schools or enjoy any of the services available to citizens.

Most of the time, they are automatically categorised as foreigners in the public eye even though they were born and raised in the country.

“It’s disheartening to hear people telling these stateless children to go back to their home country,” Alex, a committee member of the Family Support Group for Stateless Children (SFSG), told MalaysiaNow.

“Where would they go? All of them were born in Malaysia.”

In some cases, stateless children are adopted by Malaysian parents. But even they are often unable to obtain citizenship despite Section 18 of the Federal Constitution which states that adopted children will automatically follow the citizenship of his or her adoptive parents.

Instead, they are given a MyKas or green card which must be renewed every five years.

“Some officials give reasons like national security,” Alex said on the difficulty in obtaining a proper IC or MyKad.

“I genuinely do not know how stateless children would be a threat to the country.”

Many parents in SFSG said they were frustrated with the bureaucracy surrounding the entire procedure of applying for citizenship.

While they await word from the government, they must continue forking out what often amounts to an enormous sum of money in order to provide the same facilities for their children that others receive for free.

“The government should be more transparent when it comes to granting citizenship to abandoned stateless children,” Michael, who sits on the SFSG committee alongside Alex, said.

“The child is already in a pitiful situation – how much does the government want these children to suffer?”

Most of the time, parents are issued a standard response of “your application is still being processed”.

Meanwhile, their children continue growing but are unable to meet any of the normal milestones in life.

“They judge our children on paper,” Michael said.

“They don’t see them or meet them, or help the families with what to do next. There is zero assistance from the government.”

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