Stateless children can’t attend school under new policy requiring passports, Penang parents say

Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy shows a picture of one of the stateless students on his mobile phone during a press conference in George Town February 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy shows a picture of one of the stateless students on his mobile phone during a press conference in George Town February 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Feb 2 — Stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents are now prevented from attending local schools by a new policy requiring them to produce passports starting this year,

One such parent, MV Krishnan, 64, said his 13-year-old adopted daughter was supposed to enter Form One this year but could not because of this new policy.

“The education department told us that we must furnish her passport to enrol her in a government school because she is not a Malaysian citizen,” he said.

He said he adopted his daughter when she was an infant.

“I don’t know her parents so we couldn’t apply for a passport for her so we don’t know what to do now,” he said in a video call with Deputy Chief Minister II P.Ramasamy at the latter’s office in Komtar today.

Krishnan is one of 19 parents in Penang who are facing similar issues with their adopted children.

Ramasamy said the children are stateless as their biological mothers were foreigners and no longer in Malaysia while the children’s birth certificates listed them as non-citizens.

He said the children’s citizenship in their birth certificates will be listed according to their biological mother’s citizenship.

He said that previously, stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents were able to attend government schools as long as the parents bring a copy of the court order of the official adoption and documentation from the welfare department on the adoption.

“The government suddenly introduced this new policy making it compulsory for these children to bring their passports to register for government schools,” he said.

He said these stateless children were born in Malaysia to foreign mothers who have since exited the country.

“The adoptive parents couldn’t apply passports for the children who were listed as citizens of their birth mothers’ countries,” he said.

He criticised Putrajaya for implementing this new policy that effectively denies stateless children an education.

“This is inhumane. Access to education is a fundamental human right and yet these children were denied this basic right,” he said.

He said he wrote to the education department in November last year but to no avail.

“This has to be resolved immediately, they are adopted children, it is not a crime to be adopted. Why deny them the right to education?” he said.

He called on the Education Ministry to look into this issue and allow stateless children to continue schooling.

“They are not asking for funding or riches, they only want to go to school, this is cruel,” he said.

Ramasamy said there are about 2,000 stateless children in Penang and possibly tens of thousands more nationwide.

“I am sure these 19 parents who brought their issues up with us are not the only ones, there could be hundreds if not thousands more in the whole country,” he said.

He said the previous federal government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) had allowed stateless children to attend government schools.

“How can the current government claim to be caring when they don’t even allow children to go to school?” he asked.

He said the children’s future now looked bleak as they have been denied their education.

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