Govt working to reduce statelessness, says Muhyiddin

PETALING JAYA: Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday warned of the negative effects of statelessness, and assured that the government is taking steps to reduce and prevent such occurrences in the country in line with international standards and domestic laws.

Speaking at an event organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, he said many stateless people had been entering Malaysia from around the region, especially Myanmar.

This had forced the country to grapple with the financial burden of hosting them, he said, alongside security risks and social problems.

Adding that statelessness could also affect the entire region, he said one of the measures being taken was a revision of policies to facilitate adoption and help curb baby-selling and smuggling.

“We are also taking steps to achieve universal birth registration by simplifying procedures and improving access to the process,” he said in a statement.

He spoke of outreach programmes such as the MyDaftar programme to encourage civil registration in rural and remote areas.

He said Malaysia had also enacted the Child Act 2001, with further amendments to provide protection and family-based care for children regardless of status or citizenship.

“A task force has been established to look into existing barriers faced by undocumented persons,” he added.

“As a result, 1,641 citizenship applications were recently approved.”

He said the task force would continue its work to further reduce statelessness in the country.

“Stateless people normally suffer discrimination and are stigmatised, and often live in a precarious environment, making them susceptible to illegal activities such as human trafficking and extremism.

“In this context, Malaysia welcomes UNHCR’s ongoing efforts and encourages UNHCR to continue to dialogue with and provide technical assistance to states in their efforts to reduce and prevent statelessness.”