Accept stateless children into the Malaysian Family

ANOTHER victory in the battle to uphold the citizenship rights of stateless children, who have strong and valid links to this country, was won Friday (Nov 19) at the Federal Court, "Stateless teenager is a Malaysian citizen, Federal Court rules" (The Star, Nov 19; online at

Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired a five-member bench, said the youth was entitled to Malaysian citizenship by virtue of his birth within the Federation of Malaysia under Article 14(1)(b), Section 1(a) of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution, read together with Section 19B of Part III of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.

This victory is crucial as it paves the way for children abandoned at birth in Malaysia to acquire citizenship.

It is also highly significant as it coincides with the celebration of World Children's Day today (Nov 20).

This development is in line with the commitment made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to protect all children regardless of their race, religion, citizenship or other status in his speech at the 2021 World Children’s Day celebration at Parliament Building on Thursday (Nov 18).

Nevertheless, the situation faced by DHRRA (Development of Human Resources For Rural Areas) Malaysia and other like-minded NGOs in their attempts to engage the government on issues concerning Malaysian families is completely different.

Over the years, DHRRA has consistently raised concerns about stateless children and the situation on the ground, but thus far the issue has not garnered the necessary attention from the relevant authorities and decision makers.

This has been complicated by constant shifts in policies that go hand in hand with the frequent changes in the government of late.

As PM Ismail Sabri has aptly stated, a lot of effort needs to be channelled to protect all the children in Malaysia, safeguard their right to proper education and create a conducive environment for them to grow up, achieve their full potential and chase their dreams.

This is especially so in the case of stateless children who are deprived of the rights, including access to education, healthcare and movement, accorded to a Malaysian citizen.

They are deemed as not belonging to the country although the majority of them are born to at least one Malaysian parent. Some were abandoned in Malaysia with no means of tracing their parents.

While the authorities have linked nationality issues to security concerns, the grim and worrying fact that thousands of children born and living in Malaysia are not able to acquire citizenship is often overlooked.

Thus far, no concrete efforts have been undertaken to tackle the causes of childhood statelessness in Malaysia, especially the gender inequality provisions in our nationality law.

Hence, it is no surprise that we remain one of only three countries in the world that are denying couples an equal right to confer nationality to their children who are born outside a legal marriage.

When a child does not have any form of legal identification, he or she is subjected to prolonged denial of opportunities to grow and progress as an individual.

This will inadvertently have a tremendous impact on their mental health and their families as well.

Dharra Malaysia has observed an increase in mental health issues among stateless children and youths through our grassroots intervention programmes.

If not tackled promptly, this will have severe repercussions on Malaysian society as a whole.


Director of Social Protection

DHRRA Malaysia

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