Abandoned children find themselves without a state

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.

"It is not fair on the child as it was not their fault they were abandoned," he said.

He said the children were usually issued green MyKads that were meant for temporary residents and "persons of undetermined citizenship."

He said many adults who came out from welfare homes found it difficult to apply for jobs. "They suffer a lot all their lives. The Government should give exceptions to such children. They don't belong to any other country but Malaysia.

"They should be citizens. We should be more human," he said.