Archive for the ‘Kids on the streets.’ Category

Stateless kids’ plight

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
Siti Masitah’s brutal murder must jolt us into action regarding the plight of stateless children

THEY are called by several names — invisible children, hidden children, stateless children, undocumented children, and lost children. Their existence today makes a mockery of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), which stipulates that every child has a right to a name, a nationality, and a right to education. Article 7(1) of CRC states that “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality …”  while Article 28(1) states that “States Parties recognise the right of the child to education…”.

The  Unicef portal revealed that Malaysia had ratified the Convention in 1995 but had made “reservations” to some of its provisions, including Article 7 and Article 28(1). What this means is that Malaysia is not bound to recognise the child’s right to name and nationality as well as his right to education.

Article 12 of our Federal Constitution guarantees “the rights in respect of education” but they are available only to Malaysian citizens.

Siti Masitah Ibrahim, 11, who went missing on Jan 30, was a stateless child. She was a stateless person because her Cambodian mother has no identification document or permanent residency card.

When her mother reported her missing, the Nur Alert system was not activated. “Nur” is the acronym for “National Urgent Response”.

Pekan police chief Superintendent Amran Sidek explained that the system was not activated because Masitah’s parents were foreigners. Although they had settled down in Pekan since the 1980s, they do not have any identification documents.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh clarified that the Nur Alert system is applicable to all children under 12 reported missing, regardless of nationality and regardless of documentation.

Assistant Commissioner Choo Lily (of the Federal Sexual, Women and Children’s Investigation Division) said on the day the police received the report from the child’s parents, the Nur Alert should have been blasted out through the system with the child’s brief description and a latest photograph.

Masitah’s body was discovered by villagers in an oil palm plantation in Kampung Tanjung Medang Hilir, Pekan, on Sunday.

Pahang Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Othman Nanyan later told reporters that police had detained a  Cambodian  on Jan  31, the day after the girl had disappeared.

At first, the suspect (who has no identification documents) did not admit his involvement in Masitah’s disappearance but upon further questioning, he admitted it. He is now under remand until Feb 17 under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

On Feb 12, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim told the media that after this recent incident, police will review the procedure on missing persons and ensure that reports of such incidents were not taken lightly.

An Aljazeera report in 2016 stated there were at least 50,000 undocumented children in Sabah. The Asia Foundation described these “hidden children” as among the country’s most vulnerable. They are offspring of migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, or the Bajau Laut nomadic people. Their families have lived in Malaysia for generations, but their births were not registered by their parents because of the fear of arrest.

In November 2016, former home minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there were more than 290,000 stateless children in Malaysia. Without any official status, they cannot travel, attend government schools or gain access to the public health system. Without documentation, they risk detention and face difficulty in getting employment.

Last November, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik told the media that undocumented children can be admitted to national schools as long as one of their parents is a Malaysian citizen. This is part of the government’s new “Undocumented Children Can Enter Schools 2019” initiative. Even if Siti Masitah was still alive today, this new initiative would mean nothing to her because both her parents are undocumented.

According to UNHCR, there are at least 10 million stateless people around the world. Every 10 minutes, a stateless child is born somewhere in the world. In 2014,  this UN body started its campaign to end statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this goal, it has urged all states to implement the following measures as part of its Global Action Plan to End Statelessness — allow children to gain nationality of the country in which they are born; reform laws that prevent mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers; eliminate laws and practices that deny nationality because of their ethnicity, race or religion; and ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.


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Census on stateless, undocumented individuals

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: A government affiliate called Gabungan NGOs Negeri Sabah (GANNOS) will conduct a census on about 800,000 individuals in the state who claim to be stateless or do not possess any identification document.

The organisation’s president Datuk Nani Sakam said the census would be carried out by 29 GANNOS associations from tomorrow in seven zones – North West Coast, South West Coast, Upper Interior, Lower Interior, Labuan, Sandakan and Tawau.

“For a start, the census task force will only collect 10 samples (undocumented individuals) in each district. They will be given till July 15 to return the census or research forms to the secretariat. The census report will be filed and submitted to the state and federal governments.

“Our aim is to help the people and government to address the issue. We do not want to see Sabah after 20 years for instance, being full of undocumented people,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting for the census task force here on Friday.


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School for street kids gets hostel

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih, the only school in the country for street children, and approved a RM30mil allocation to build a hostel there.

He said the future of the children at the school, in Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, Kampung Baru, would be more assured with a hostel.

“The future of the children at this school is unique and challenging. As such, the government decided to build a hostel at the school,” he said.

SBJK provides free education to children aged from four to 19.

It was established on the initiative of the Education Ministry to provide access to education to street children in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib was impressed with the commitment of the school principal, Zulkernai Fauzi, and the teachers in educating these children.

“They are doing something that goes beyond their scope of duties, for the sake of giving these children an education,” he said.

The Prime Minister also praised the teachers for their efforts in seeking out street children and getting them admitted to the school.

Earlier, in his speech, Najib said the school, with an enrolment of 143, was unique in Malaysia and probably the only one of its kind in the world.

He said the school helped these children to get a complete education so that they would have a brighter future.

He also advised the children to study hard and realise their dreams.

“I hope all of you will study hard to realise your ambitions. We have to study hard. Do not skip school.

“Just now, my wife (Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor) asked what you want to be when you grow up.

“Some of you said you want to become doctors, bank officers, teachers and footballers. Some of you said you want to be the prime minister.

“Whatever your dreams and ambitions, you must study hard,” he said.

At the event, Najib handed over Aidilfitri goodies to the children.

He also announced the appointment of show host Datuk Aznil Nawawi as the icon and mentor of the school.


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Look into the plight of Bajau Laut, urges NGO

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: They are stateless, deprived of education, employment and healthcare and live in abject po­verty in the east coast of Sabah.

But things are looking up for the nomadic Palau or Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) since their plight was highlighted by a non-governmental organisation involved in family planning and health.

Lim Hwei Mian, programme services head of the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations visited the Palau in Lahad Datu and described them as a “pitiful community”.

“I found that many of the girls become mothers at an average age of 15, and they have many children. They live, eat and even give birth on boats.

“They can’t go to school, work or get proper hospital treatment if they fall ill,” said Lim, adding that many of them did not even know their real ages.

She said there should not be such a situation in Malaysia, which aims to be a developed country by 2020.

“This is what we see in Third World countries. How is it that these people do not to have any documents or nationality?” she asked.

Lim urged the Government to issue birth certificates and identity cards to the Palau so that they would be able to go to school, receive healthcare and find jobs if they want to, just like other Malaysians.

“If nothing is done, the cycle of po­­verty and poor living conditions of these people will never end,” she said.

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When they turn 18: Work option for street kids

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Street children making a nuisance of themselves in the State may soon be put to work, if above 18.

Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad said these children will be rounded up along with beggars, loafers and those mentally unsound in an integrated operation from as early as this week.

“Instead of bringing in more foreign workers to work in our State as construction or plantation labourers, we thought it would be better to hire them instead,” she said after a meeting on these issues here Monday.

“We must consider what we are going to do with these street children as soon as they turn 18? And besides, they have also learnt to speak our language and understand our culture well.”

In the same vein Jainab pointed out this was not going to be a prelude to making them citizens.

“Most of the street children do not have any legal documents with them and are considered stateless. Therefore, the meeting we had earlier was to discuss ways to solve this problem,” she said, adding that both the Filipino and Indonesian governments have refused to accept them.

“Most of them are born here and they have been around here for most their lives. They have also learnt and understand our culture,” she said.

“Based on our statistics, there are 50, 000 Filipino street children and 150, 000 Indonesian street children from June 2007 to December 2014…we are not even sure if the number is precise…who knows? It could be more than that.

“I’m very worried that these street children will be involved in social problems such as drugs or become victims of human trafficking or end up being kidnapped. They might also end up being professional beggars and this would be an eyesore especially to tourists.

“Besides, we must also take into account the locals’ welfare because there are some cases whereby these stateless people got married with the locals and do not have any marriage certificates. This will definitely be an issue because how can their children be issued birth certificates?

“There are also cases whereby some of them happened to enter Sabah legally for work purposes but as soon as their documents expire, they will flee and we consider them illegal immigrants,” Jainab said.

Therefore, she said they have decided to form a committee to discuss and come up with working papers and once this is completed, they will bring it forward to the Chairman of the Technical Management Committee on Foreigners cum Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

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Abandoned children find themselves without a state

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Most orphaned or abandoned children who live in welfare homes are considered stateless because they don’t have citizenship.

Vijayakumari Pillai, who was formerly attached to the Social Welfare Department (JKM) explained that Malaysia is very strict when it comes to citizenship as it is based on the nationality of their biological parents.
She, however, pointed out that it was almost impossible for abandoned children to know who their parents were.
“It would be quite difficult to prove their parents were Malaysian and they will not get citizenship. Legally, they are stateless as they don’t belong to this country or any other country,” she said.
She said they could keep appealing the decisions if the National Registration Department (NRD) turned down their applications for citizenship.
She said that the children could get a MyKad when they turned 12, although it would be without a citizenship status (blue IC).
This made it difficult for them, as there were certain things they could not do such as apply for bank loans or a passport, said Vijayakumari.
“I know one 36-year-old lady who is doing well but can’t get a loan to buy a house because she can’t get citizenship,” she said.
She also said that they would have to pay a fee every time they went to a government hospital, whereas citizens paid a nominal fee at the most.
Having worked on such cases for 33 years, Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam is frustrated that the issue has not been resolved.
He said that even abandoned babies brought up in government welfare homes don’t get citizenship.

Second learning centre for stateless children

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

SANDAKAN: The Ministry of Education in collaboration and support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has set up its second learning centre for stateless and paperless children in Sabah.

The first centre is in Kg Numbak in Menggatal, Kota Kinabalu while the second opened yesterday is located in Kg Bahagia, near here.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap who opened the learning centre said the government with Unicef and the Federal Special Task Force (FSTF) have found a need to set up such learning centre, which focuses on reading, writing and counting apart from skill education, religious and moral studies, and general knowledge on Malaysia.

“The government realized that these children could not meet the conditions for them to be enrolled in government schools to receive formal education.

“However, this alternative education for them will give them an insight and experience on the importance of receiving education,” she said.

According to her, the ministry carried out a study in 2009 to obtain accurate information on these children.

“From the study, we found that among the main reasons, they could not receive education was due to the absence of proper documents whether they are citizens or not,” she said.

Subsequently, the ministry issued a circular to allow Malaysian children who do not have complete documents to study in government schools and government-aided schools.

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‘Stateless folk in Sabah, Sarawak won’t be left out’.

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has  reaffirmed its commitment to address the issue of stateless people in Sabah and Sarawak, after it was raised by several Barisan Nasional and opposition members of parliament yesterday.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had recently met the chief ministers of both states to discuss giving those without citizenship a certain status to ensure that they were not neglected.

“We have agreed in principle to give power to the states to allow the heads of villages or longhouses to help the states’ registration departments verify the marriage status of the people there, so we can contemplate giving them the appropriate identification.”

He said this would be carried out in Sarawak, but the move would be suspended in Sabah until the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants had completed its probe.

“In Sarawak, we have already begun our outreach programme and engaged with the representatives there to find out about such cases.

“We want to ensure that those without citizenship, especially children, do not miss out on education and government aid.”

Earlier, Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said there were 15 applications for citizenship in his constituency that had not received any response from the government for more than five years.

“There are many children in Sabah and Sarawak who study hard and get excellent results, but cannot enter university because of their citizenship status.

“Is the government planning to address this issue and (if so) when?”

Wan Junaidi said he would look into the matter.

Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen asked why the number of red MyKad holders in Sarawak in 2010 was only 693, but last year, it had increased to 2,762.

‘Status’ for stateless in Sabah

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

KOTA KINABALU: The stateless in Sabah will be given a ‘status’ finally to avoid social complications in the future.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who disclosed this yesterday, said that it would also ensure that these people are in the system should they get involved in crime activities.

“We are doing this on humanitarian grounds because they too deserve a certain status.

“For instance, a six-year-old today will be 20 in the next 14 years. What will happen to them if they do not possess birth certificate, identity card (IC) or any kind of documentations? We cannot send them to their countries of origin because they were born and grew up here … they cannot stay stateless.

“We have to realise this now, otherwise it will be a social problem in the future. They deserve to be given some kind of documentation and a status,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after a courtesy visit to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the Sri Gaya here yesterday.

He said that all babies borne in Malaysia are eligible for a birth certificate, but stressed that it does not automatically award one the Malaysian citizenship.

“We will divide them into two categories – citizen and non-citizen. Their status, whether they will be awarded citizenship or not, will be determined later (when they apply for the ICs),” he said.

The IC is divided into three colours, namely MyKad for citizens, and red and green. Red IC holders are non-Malaysian permanent residents, while green IC holders are non-Malaysian temporary residents.

“On whether the red and green IC holders will be given the Malaysian citizenship will only be determined when we reach the bridge and cross it. They will have to meet certain criteria such as having a clean backgrounds, avoid involving in crime and have shown their loyalty to the country,” said Wan Junaidi.

by Sandra Sokial.

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Findings on street kids kept under wraps – sociologist.

Friday, May 31st, 2013

KOTA KINABALU: A sociologist yesterday suggested stateless street kids be given some kind of status so that they can be recognized as part of the community.

“This would attract less objection from the local communities while at the same time help towards addressing the issue of stateless children in Sabah,” said Prof Dr Kntayya A/L Mariapan from Universiti Malaysia School’s School of Sociology when testifying in the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah.

He stressed that while directly giving immigrant children citizenship would draw strong objection from the local communities, a middle way was needed to be taken to address the issue.

Dr Kntayya, who appeared before the Commission as an expert witness, said these children could pose social threats if they continued to be rejected by the community as the chances of them getting involved in criminal activities such as prostitution and gangsterism were very high.

He informed the Commission that the Women and Family Development Ministry had asked him to conduct a research on street kids in Sabah but kept the findings confidential and prohibited him from publishing any materials from the study.

“I could not reveal anything from my study, but it is (the number of street kids in Sabah) very big. I must be careful not to reveal anything,” he said, when asked if the street kids were mostly foreigners and from which country.