KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) academician Wan Shawaluddin Wan Hassan has recommended the state government to issue birth certificates to stateless children, so they can access basic rights such as education and healthcare.
Wan Shawaluddin said the issue of statelessness in Sabah has to be approached from a human rights perspective.
"Stateless children also have the right to have a birth certificate of their own. It's not just for Malaysian citizens. There are many problems going on in the state now, because the government don't allow them to get birth certificates.
"If the children are documented, at least there would be data on them," he explained, adding that children with documents would have access to education and healthcare.
Wan Shawaluddin said issuing documents to the stateless community does not equate giving them MyKads, or citizenship.
He added that this will make it easier for the government to monitor stateless individuals, as it would now have data on them.
"We need the data because we want to measure the presence of the statelessness in Sabah.
"By doing this, we will know the extent of issues related to the stateless community, and we would be able to come up with better solutions," he said.
Wan Shawaluddin said while there is no definite data on the number of statelessness in Sabah, the Philippines government has estimated that there are 800,000 Filipinos in the state, while local non-governmental organisations indicate that there are 1.5mil Filipinos here.
He noted that a person has to go through several stages of screening before they can be granted Malaysian citizenship.
Meanwhile, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) senior officer Illy Kamaludin said there was no data on number of stateless people in Sabah, or persons at risk of statelessness.
"It is hard to gather data, given the mixed migratory context in Sabah," she explained.
Wan Shawaluddin and Illy spoke in a workshop organised by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) in Kota Kinabalu titled "Statelessness in Sabah: Documentation Essential Towards Human Rights Protection" on Wednesday (April 24).