Government duty-bound under UN convention to give stateless children access to education

We must give stateless children a fighting chance to survive or even thrive

Stateless children in Malaysia - Photograph: EPA/Aljazeera

We refer to reports that the authorities now insist that stateless children produce passports to enrol in government schools.

Lawyers for Liberty has also over the last few months been approached by parents facing similar demands as a prerequisite for enrolment and even those met with outright denial of registration to schools.

We attribute this to the lack of a clear policy by the federal government, where certain states have apparently imposed additional requirements for enrolment, such as the production of passports, before a stateless child can study in government schools.

As stateless persons are unable to acquire valid identification documentation, this will effectively deprive every stateless child from access to education.

Malaysia, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), recognises the right of children to education based on equal opportunity, as spelled out in Article 28.

Despite the reservation to Article 28(1)(a) on making primary education compulsory and available free to all, this does not abrogate the government’s duty to give equal access to education to stateless children.

The government must at all times bear in mind its obligation under Article 3 of the CRC: that the best interests of the child, including those who are stateless, must be the primary consideration.

The importance of education is undeniable, and any consideration of their best interest would of course include the opportunity to receive the necessary education.

Depriving any child of this right is inhumane, and for stateless children this is especially dire as, without any formal education, they will be further disenfranchised and unable to acquire any semblance of a secure future.

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We thus urge the government to honour its obligations under the CRC by immediately streamlining and clarifying its policy in order to accord equal access to education to stateless children and ensure its compliance in all states.

We must give stateless children a fighting chance to survive or even thrive and not cause them any further undue hardship.

Zaid Malek is coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty

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