Schools should help stateless students acquire citizenship, says Sarawak welfare minister

Sarawak Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah speaks to reporters, February 17, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah speaks to reporters, February 17, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Feb 19 — Effort must be made to help stateless students in Sarawak acquire citizenship, state Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said today.

She said the state Education Department has identified 766 stateless children who entered primary and secondary schools this year.

“The school administrators need to work with the state Education Department, National Registration Department, community leaders and parents to get these students get the proper documents and apply for the citizenship,” Fatimah said.

Speaking to reporters after attending an inter-agency meeting with education and state welfare officers on education for undocumented students, she said parents must themselves take the initiative to get their children acquire Malaysian citizenship.

Fatimah said the authorities must also reach out to those who have dropped out from schools in recent time.

She said the process of applying for citizenship is a complicated task and that all applications must be approved by the Home Ministry.

She said these students are Malaysians, only that they do not possess birth certificates and identity cards to prove their citizenship status.

“These students are without documents, whose citizenship status is unknown or that they could be non-Malaysians,” she said.

“We must help them out with documentation. For that, we need the cooperation of the community leaders because there is a circular from MoE for them to give confirmation letters that the parents of these children are Malaysians,” she said.

She said parents, for whatever reasons, have failed to register their births or that they were born to parents who did not register their marriages.

She said marriage certificate is a required document for parents when registering the birth of the children.

She said a birth certificate alone will not guarantee that the children will automatically become Malaysian citizens.

“Without the marriage certificate, then the authorities will look at the citizenship status of the mothers, even though the fathers are Malaysians.

“If the mothers are Malaysians, then it is not a problem. It will become a serious problem if the mothers are foreigners,” she said, adding that in such a case, the children will take the citizenship status of the mothers.  

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