Saturday, 5 January 2013

Plight Of Stateless Children

KUALA LUMPUR: Millions of children in Malaysia went back to school this week as the new school year begins.

But many stateless children continue to be denied access to the national school system.

For brothers Hari and Haran, who are deemed "stateless" by Malaysian authorities, their wait continues. 

They cannot enrol in national schools as they have no birth certificates.

The two brothers were believed to be aged four and six when they were found along a highway outside Kuala Lumpur eight years ago. They had no documentation with them.

The Agathian Shelter in Petaling Jaya has been their home since. 

In June last year, Channel NewsAsia highlighted the plight of some of these stateless children in Malaysia. 

At that time, Hari and Haran could hardly speak in English. Now six months on, the boys have grown, and thanks to the good work of some volunteers who home-schooled them, they are now a lot more upbeat and can express themselves easily in English. 

"They said you don't have birth cert, you can't come to school, only boys with birth certs can go to school," said Hari.

Haran said: "I want to go to school, a real school and I want a lot of friends, a lot of teachers to teach me everyday." 

The shelter has been trying over the years to locate the boys' parents.

Under the federal constitution, they can only apply for citizenship if either of their parents is Malaysian. 

Mogan Sivabalan of Agathian Shelter said: "We have published in newspapers at least 13 times, in six or seven major dailies in all four languages, and we still could not find the parents, maybe the parents are not alive." 

There are believed to be some 49,000 stateless children like Hari and Haran in Malaysia who were denied access to national education. 

The Home Ministry has promised to look into the matter but response has been slow. 

Mr Mogan added: "Till today, there's no answer, we are calling the departments, all the people relating to this are not at their desks. I don't know where are they, they are not replying to us, we don't know where it's going." 

He blames the government for turning a blind eye to the plight of the stateless children.

Without an ID, that's required in order to be legally employed or lawfully married in this country, their future remains bleak.

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