PETALING JAYA: The Immigration Department’s policy requiring stateless children to have a passport before they can attend school is preposterous and violates an international treaty that Malaysia is part of, a rights group said in the wake of a report that a stateless child had been turned away by a school in Negeri Sembilan.
The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) said Malaysia was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, making it the government’s duty to uphold its commitment to the protection and welfare of all children.
“Children’s rights under the convention include the right to association with both parents, human identity, physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, healthcare and the child’s civil rights,” said its chairman Kuthubul Zaman and secretary-general Ivy Josiah.
“Hence, all states being parties to the convention must ensure and guarantee these rights to each and every child irrespective of whether they are citizens, stateless or refugees.”
They were responding to reports that a seven-year-old in Seremban had been barred from attending school under a new immigration policy on non-citizens.
The child, Darshana, was legally adopted but classified as a non-citizen. Her adoptive parents have submitted an application for her citizenship, which is still pending.
Proham said Article 3 of the convention clearly provides that in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child should always be a primary consideration.
“Therefore, to impose a requirement of a passport on a stateless child before a child is allowed to attend school is a preposterous condition and an outright violation of the convention,” it added.
Proham said it was deeply concerned that the Immigration Department and Education Department were depriving stateless children born in Malaysia of the right to education.
It urged the government and all relevant departments to immediately revoke the condition to enable every child in Malaysia to receive their basic human right to education.