First family support group for stateless launched

Klang MP Charles Santiago with the stateless children and families at the launch of the first family support group for the stateless in Malaysia.

KLANG: Klang MP Charles Santiago is hoping the newly-launched family support group for the stateless in Malaysia will be able to help them fight for their rights.

He said 668 stateless people had come to his constituency office to seek help to obtain citizenship.

He said many of them were born in Malaysia and at least one of their parents has Malaysian citizenship. Yet, they cannot obtain citizenship.

“Most of these parents come to my office when their children face problems entering school and suffer a great deal emotionally.

“These children are often the target of insults and become disturbed because of their stateless status.

“Their situation has even led to a few to contemplate suicide,” he told reporters today after launching the family support group for the stateless at his office.

He said one of the mothers, from Balakong, had approached him for help after her 18-year-old son wanted to commit suicide as he saw no hope for his future without citizenship.

He said that was when he thought of setting up a support group, especially to help such children.

“We want to create awareness among these stateless people that they have rights under the Federal Constitution and they should not despair.

“In the constitution, it is very clear that if either parent is a Malaysian, then the children must be granted citizenship.

“But the home ministry only gives citizenship to the children if the mother is a Malaysian. This goes against the constitution.”

Santiago said the group would provide legal support for the families to plead their cases in court.

These families need not pay to get such legal assistance, he added.

Santiago hoped this support group would be able to put pressure on the government to amend the regulations so that it will be easier to obtain citizenship.

He said at present lawyers were handling two cases and will file them soon.

Lee Lay Wah, 72, who was present at the launch, said that her grandchild had still not obtained citizenship although they had been applying for citizenship since 2012.

She said the application was rejected with no specific reasons given.