Statelessness a security problem too, world needs to do more, says Muhyiddin

Muhyiddin said Malaysia has been receiving and hosting an increasingly large number of stateless people from neighbouring Myanmar. — Reuters pic
Muhyiddin said Malaysia has been receiving and hosting an increasingly large number of stateless people from neighbouring Myanmar. — Reuters pic

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IPOH, Oct 8 — Statelessness is not just a socio-economic problem but has security repercussions for Malaysia and the region, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said at a United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on the issue in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.

The home minister also said statelessness is a critical problem that requires urgent international attention, adding that Malaysia has taken initiatives for redress even though the country is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“Stateless people normally suffer discrimination, are stigmatised and often live in a precarious environment making them susceptible to illegal activities such as human trafficking and extremism,” he said in his speech at the UNHCR high-level event on statelessness.

He said Malaysia has been receiving and hosting an increasingly large number of stateless people from neighbouring Myanmar.

“As a consequence, we have not only been grappling with financial burden of hosting them, but having to tackle all kinds of security risks and social problems,” he said.

He noted there has been progress in tackling statelessness following pledges made at the December 2011 Asean ministerial meeting, but said more needs to be done even as he listed the measures taken by Malaysia. .

“Malaysia is adopting more transparent procedures to facilitate applications of citizenship and to prevent Malaysian children from becoming stateless,” he said, including simplifying the registration of births especially for those born in remote areas within the country.

He said Malaysia’s policy revisions aimed to curb baby selling and smuggling by helping with legal adoption.

He said the Child Act 2001 enactment is also part of Malaysia’s duty under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adding that amendments were made in 2016 to boost protection and safeguards for the young, without discrimination.

Muhyiddin reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to tackle the problem of undocumented persons, saying a task force has been set up to look at barriers to citizenship and that the government recently approved 1,641 citizenship applications.

“This task force will continue its work in the foreseeable future and hopefully we will be able to reduce the number of stateless people further,” he said. 

Muhyiddin urged the UNHCR to continue to dialogue with and provide technical assistance to countries to curb statelessness.

“Malaysia is committed in strengthening the partnership with the UNHRC in tackling the issue of statelessness,” he said.

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