A long wait for citizenship without guarantees

01 Aug 2022 12:16pm
The 'Saya Juga Anak Malaysia' campaign conducted for children affected with the issue.
The 'Saya Juga Anak Malaysia' campaign conducted for children affected with the issue.

SHAH ALAM - The wait without any assurances to attain citizenship is now becoming a frightening situation for children born outside the country for those with Malaysian mothers.

As opposed to Malaysian men, the children who were born in foreign countries would still receive the benefits where citizenship would be given automatically under Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution even though the mother was a foreign citizen.

Family Frontiers president Suriani Kempe said Malaysian women who marry non-citizen men needed to apply for citizenship for their children through registration, but it would take a long time sometimes even up to two to 20 years without a guarantee of approval.

The situation caused their lives to be filled with uncertainties and anxiety in addition to other constraints and being denied privileges as a citizen.

"At the time many cases that we received is Malaysian mothers who married a foreign citizen not inheriting citizenship to the child born overseas through the enforcement of the (automatic) law.

"According to statistics, they have the opportunity of less than one per cent to have the application approved causing the many mothers involved to worry about their children's futures.

"The biggest effect is their children not having access to reasonable healthcare, education nor rights to stay in Malaysia with their family.

Suriani stated Family Frontiers which was established in August 2020 received many complaints regarding the rights and welfare of multinational families and the citizenship of Malaysian woman's children born in foreign countries.

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Currently, she said there were more than 200 Malaysian mothers affected by Malaysia's unequal citizenship laws when having children born in foreign countries.

"The Home Affairs Ministry at the Parliament on July 19 said they received a large number of applications of 591 children that were born in foreign countries by Malaysian women 'by the enactment of law' under Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution between 2021 and July 12, 2022.

"Of the total 33, documents have been processed while 558 are still pending.

"In the Family Frontiers network, only six Malaysian mothers are plaintiffs in the 'Suriani Kempe & other opposing the government others' case had received their children's citizenship while other mothers affected still have not received their documents.

"It is important for children of Malaysian women to be given their citizenship rights equally for them to be given protection accordingly. How long do they have to wait?" she questioned.

The government needed to fulfil their promise in amending the Federal Constitution to give equal rights for men and women in the issue of inherited citizenship for their children.

Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) Commissioner Professor Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said many children born abroad are denied even though their mothers were Malaysians.

"In Malaysia, the law regarding citizenship is decided in Article 14 in the Federal Constitution, if the father is Malaysian marrying a non-Malaysian their child is a citizen no matter where they were born.

"For Malaysian Women marrying a foreign citizen, the child born in a foreign country can't attain Malaysian citizenship. This represents discrimination for women.

"This is the position of the law we have and needs to be reviewed and amended so no children are denied their rights," she told Sinar Harian.

Noor Aziah added the effects of the current law would make a woman's child a foreign citizen even though they lived in Malaysia.

She said the sad part would be when the child reaches 18-years-old, they would have to apply for a visa to stay in Malaysia.

"The situation is inconvenient and saddening for any children separated from their mothers.

"For children whose father is Malaysian, it is much easier for them to gain citizenship, they do not need to face any bureaucracy hassles," she said.

Meanwhile, the media reported the government’s plea towards the decision of the High Court for children born in foreign countries by Malaysian mothers with non-Malaysian fathers who have the right to gain citizenship automatically has been set to Aug 5.

The panel of three judges in the Court of Appeal were Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said, Datuk Azizah Nawawi and Datuk S Nantha Balan will present the decision in the open court.

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