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SWWS Applauds Help to Stateless Children

Sarawak Women for Women Society, Press Release - 10 April 2022

Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) fully supports the State’s Government’s decision to issue temporary documentation to stateless children as announced by YB Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah recently.

“This is a life-saving measure, as it will ease these children’s access to health care and education while their application for citizenship is being processed.” said SWWS’s President Angie Garet, adding, “Without education and health care  we are failing children; blighting their development and creating future problems for them and the country.”

As a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of Children and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Malaysia has a duty to ensure no child is left behind and that every child has a secure identity. The decision of the State Government to recognise these children to enable them to grow and develop is a crucial step towards meeting these obligations. To fully achieve them, however, there needs to be a similar commitment at Federal Level.

Both need to work together. The State is in an ideal position to understand the local context and assist in the process as many applicants have genuine reasons why their ancestors do not have the standard documentation expected today, due to lack of access and following indigenous traditions, while the Federal Government has the ultimate authority to decide who is a citizen.

SWWS calls upon the relevant Federal Ministries to recognise Sarawak’s temporary documentation so that the aim of children entering school and receiving health care, while their applications are being processed, moves ahead without delay. 

Further, SWWS calls on the Home Ministry to have a more efficient, transparent application process as the current one is notoriously slow; leaves families in limbo for years; rarely grants citizenship and when rejecting does not give the reasons making it hard and expensive for people to appeal, especially the poor and those living in remote areas of Sarawak.

When we are talking about children, every month without schooling has an impact: every obstacle to health care could cause a death.  Sarawak is trying to rectify this situation but needs all parties to play their part.  SWWS looks forward to speedy implementation of this progressive policy by all relevant Ministries.