Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stateless children continue to be a problem in Sarawak

Stateless children remains an ongoing and serious issue in Sarawak, especially in the rural areas, with at least 2,000 cases identified by the latest task force set up by the National Registration Department (NRD). Some cases remain unsolved for 25 years with residents living in Sarawak having no proper documents, either no birth certificates or no citizenship status. "We cannot say this (previous task force and NRD's mobile unit) is a failure. This is an ongoing process and we hope to reduce the number of stateless children," said Sarawak Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah told reporters. She had discussed this issue with a team of officers from the NRD Sarawak office today who informed that a special task force, set up on January 1, would cover all areas in the state in two years to look into the problem. This is not the first time that the federal government had set up task force to look into Sarawak's identity documentation issue. A similar task force was set up in 2008. When asked on the effectiveness of previous task force, NRD Sarawak deputy director Amelia Lee said the identification issue was a complex one and urged those who had yet to have proper documentations to come forward so the team could look into it. During the recent campaign by Sarawak for Sarawakians to collect signatures from Sarawakians to push for referendum, the group had come across at least 400 residents who were holding green identity cards or temporary residency. Fatimah said this issue was complicated with peculiar facts in each case, which had made it difficult to solve and grant citizenship status to some children, even though they were born in Sarawak. Among the common reasons of stateless children are unregistered marriages, unable to trace parents, mothers without proper documents, and difficult for rural folk to travel to NRD offices to register for birth certificates. "There is big implication with stateless children as all government aid can only be given to Malaysians. These stateless children living in poverty can't even enjoy welfare aid and education, and forced to pay higher for school fees." – March 2, 2016.]]>

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