UNHCR Welcomes Renewed Commitment By Malaysia To End Statelessness
KUALA LUMPUR, 8 October 2019 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes Malaysia’s renewed commitment to reduce and prevent statelessness in the country, in line with the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness by 2024.
The Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, spoke in Geneva during a special session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting known as the High-Level Segment on Statelessness to take stock of progress half way through its #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness by 2024.
UNHCR appreciates the importance with which this event has been treated by the Malaysian Government with the Minister himself attending and speaking on statelessness at the annual Executive Committee meeting.
A stateless person is someone who does not have a nationality from any country, nor all the rights, benefits, and protection that nationality offers.
“Stateless people not only suffer discrimination and stigmatization, (but) often live in a precarious environment,” said Muhyiddin.
The Minister said the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, a guiding framework of 10 actions to be undertaken by States, with the support of UNHCR and other stakeholders to end statelessness, sets forth practical measures towards this end.
“As for Malaysia who has taken steps to reduce and prevent statelessness in accordance with applicable international standards and relevant domestic laws, we believe that our ongoing efforts bode well with the Global Action Plans, particularly Actions 2, 7, 8 and 10,” said Muhyiddin.
UNHCR is encouraged by Malaysia’s continued commitment to encouraging civil registration, especially through its National Registration Departments reach-out programmes in rural and remote areas, with the aim of facilitating access to social services for vulnerable communities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals’ principle of “leaving no one behind”.
UNHCR also acknowledges the steps taken by Malaysia to adopt more transparent procedures in facilitating the application of citizenship and to prevent Malaysian children from becoming stateless.
“These are people who may have lived in Malaysia for generations, but have never been registered as a Malaysian national, or who have lost their connection to the countries their families had formerly come from. Many of these communities live in remote or border areas, and have very limited access to information about documentation procedures, including how to register their children at birth”, said Thomas Albrecht, UNHCR Representative.
“Statelessness can mean a life without education, without medical care or legal employment. It can mean a life without the ability to move freely, without prospect. Without any nationality, they are denied their basic rights. It can mean a lifetime without the dignity of legal identity”, said Albrecht.
“Malaysia’s continued commitment to resolve existing major situations of statelessness, preventing new cases of statelessness from emerging and better identifying and protecting stateless populations, provides these communities the chance to fully participate in Malaysian society.”
In 2014, UNHCR launched a global #IBelong’ Campaign, aimed at ending statelessness by 2024. Since then some 15 countries have newly acceded to the two major treaties on statelessness, the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Total accessions to the first of these treaties, the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, could soon exceed the notable threshold of 100 countries. In the first five years of the Campaign, more than 220,000 stateless people have now acquired a nationality.
In Malaysia, UNHCR and civil society members continue to work with, and support, the Malaysian Government to eradicate statelessness and to ensure that everyone has a legal identity in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 16.9 “Legal Identity for All, Including Birth Registration”.