Many hurdles to clear in getting citizenship

WE refer to Home Minster Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin’s recent statement that stateless individuals would be granted a one-year window period to apply for citizenship.

His acknowledgement of and concern over the prolonged and unresolved issue of stateless persons throughout Malaysia is proof of the Home Ministry’s increased responsiveness in addressing the problem.DHRRA (Development of Human Resources For Rural Areas) highlighted the plight of stateless people in Peninsular Malaysia through a widespread mapping exercise carried out in 2014.

Subsequently, community-based paralegal services and support were provided to the stateless and undocumented persons to assist them in submitting their application for citizenship to the National Registration Department (NRD).

The Home Minister also urged stateless individuals who have not registered with the NRD to do so as soon as possible. However, there are many who have problems, preventing them from submitting their application for citizenship.

These include language and literacy challenges, which hamper their understanding of the overall application procedures and also prevent them from performing well during the language interview conducted by the NRD.

They also have problems providing the documents to support their application for citizenship. These range from missing or damaged proof of birth to inconsistency in the birth details and typographical errors in their birth certificate.

Furthermore, the NRD requires the presence of two witnesses who are at least 15 years older than the applicant to initiate late birth registration. This is an issue that mainly affects those who were born before the country gained independence.

We are also concerned about the growing number of stateless children in Malaysia. This was revealed during our mapping exercise and is attributed to several factors, including the challenges in applying for citizenship for foundlings as well as adopted children.

Despite possessing and submitting the required supporting documents to the NRD, many still find it hard to be accepted as Malaysian citizens. Some had to reapply three to four times over a period of several years before finally being recognised as Malaysian.

We appreciate NRD’s role in working within its SOP. But some of the procedures need to be changed, and this requires political will through the involvement of the government, particularly the Home Ministry.

If the issue is not resolved soon, it will cause more problems in the future. We therefore urge the government to take immediate steps in understanding and addressing the challenges faced by our stateless population in their application for citizenship, particularly the SOP of the NRD.


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