Citizenship law amendments: Uncertain fate looms for foundlings

Amendment will likely result in unresolved issues and an increasing number of stateless children.

20 Mar 2024 01:10pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF. (Inset: Rahayu)
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF. (Inset: Rahayu)

SHAH ALAM - Amendments to the laws regarding the citizenship of foundlings are feared to result in not only uncertain futures for this group but also make them vulnerable to the injustices of a weak system.

Among the concerns raised by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was that the amendment did not clearly state whether the children involved were guaranteed to obtain citizenship or not.

It is understood that the children would need to go through the existing procedures and would face various difficulties when making an application due to technical and documentation problems.

Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance member Siti Rahayu Bahari said this situation was likely to result in unresolved issues and an increasing number of stateless children.

Clearly, she expressed that the government's intention to amend the laws regarding this matter should be rejected and reconsidered because there was no guarantee for these children.

"There will be many children whom we call Malaysian children affected by these amendments and they will continue to be stateless individuals.

"Among these children, there are actually those with Malaysian bloodline but they are denied the right to citizenship.

"So, these children should not be punished for the sins of their parents," she told Sinar.

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On March 11, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat that Putrajaya intended to amend citizenship laws related to stateless children to prevent them from being misused by foreigners.

However, the action received criticism and opposition from various parties who believed that the proposed amendments would worsen the situation for those without citizenship.

There were concerns that these amendments might result in more children being affected, either stateless or placed in uncertain situations.

Additionally, Rahayu claimed that the amendments were made without undergoing a thorough study and detailed data.

"It was proposed in June 2023, and we were surprised it will be presented this month. In our view, matters like this require time so as not to oppress anyone," she said.

Commenting further, she said these amendments were expected to impact five rights of children, namely access to healthcare, education, protection, the right to play and the right to reside in Malaysia without fear and insecurity.

"If this matter is not handled properly, we are concerned that it could pose a significant security threat to the country.

"Conversely, if we address it correctly, these children will be able to make significant contributions to the country in the future," she said.

She said all countries in the world already have special laws to protect the rights of foundlings, but only Malaysia and Barbados did not assist this vulnerable group.

"This makes us the most backward country in efforts to protect these innocent children," she said.

However, Rahayu hoped that the government would continue amending the constitution regarding the citizenship rights of children born abroad to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners.

"We want this amendment to proceed, but amendments regarding stateless and foundlings should be withdrawn and re-evaluated," she said.

For the record, the newly established Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance is supported by 50 non-governmental organisations fighting to protect and safeguard the fate of stateless children in this country.

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