'The impact of my child not holding Malaysian citizenship is profound and personal'

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysian mothers shared their struggle in applying for their children's citizenship ahead of an amendment bill, which is expected to be tabled in the upcoming Parliament session beginning June 24.

Some of them waited for up to six years for their citizenship application only to be told that it was rejected without any reason.

They said they have been tirelessly engaging with authorities and have adhered to the requirements set for citizenship applications.

For Christine Al-Jamal from Kuching, Sarawak, her hope to obtain Malaysian citizenship for her eldest son was shattered when her application was rejected without any reason given after waiting for six years.

She said her ordeal began in 2014 while working as an operating theatre nurse in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where she met and married her Jordanian husband.

She welcomed her first child, Danny Ehab, in July 2017.

"Before Danny was born, I sought advice from the Malaysian consulate in Jeddah about my child's citizenship status.

"I was assured that everything would proceed smoothly and there was nothing to worry about," she told a press conference with Family Frontiers here today.

Christine could not travel back to Malaysia to give birth due to her having a high-risk pregnancy.

She applied for Danny's citizenship under Article 15(2) in October 2018, but was rejected in March this year after a six-year wait, with no reason provided for it.

"The impact of my child not holding Malaysian citizenship is profound and personal. My daughter, born in Malaysia, holds Malaysian citizenship, while Danny, who is now seven, is treated as a foreigner from the moment he sets foot in Malaysia.

"He has to queue at the foreign passport line at the airport, despite his mother being a Malaysian citizen."

Danny's lack of citizenship also affects his healthcare and education, Christine added.

"We have to go to private hospitals for Danny's immunisations because he is not eligible for free immunisations at government hospitals.

"He also had to register for school two weeks later than Malaysian children because he is considered a foreigner. He does not receive free textbooks and misses out on many benefits his sister enjoys.

"This entire situation is incredibly sad and depressing for me as a mother. I feel helpless, unable to help my child in my own country."

Reflecting on the ordeals faced by the family, Christine expressed regrets for what her child has to face.

"Had we known the full extent of the law, we would have returned to Malaysia despite the risks of my pregnancy. We would have done anything to avoid this discrimination," she said.

Meanwhile, a mother of two children, Shamila Unnikrishnan from Ampang, who works with the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya also faced setbacks in securing Malaysian citizenship for her children.

Married to a Kenyan national, both her children were born in Kenya.

Her journey began when she first applied for her daughter's citizenship when the latter was six months old following advice from the Malaysian High Commission in Kenya.

Despite meticulous preparation, the application was rejected without explanation, followed by a second attempt which was also denied.

"For my first application, I waited for the result for four years just to be told it was rejected through a letter they sent.

"I had a phone call with the Home Ministry, and they said, 'we don't have to tell you why (the application was rejected). If you're not happy, reapply,'" Shamila recalls.

She said it was difficult to understand what was incomplete about her application.

"We followed the officers' instructions meticulously."

Shamila stressed that the citizenship issue is a matter of life and death. She cites a case of a terminally ill mother she knows who has spent over a decade applying for her children's citizenship without success.

"If she passes away before the applications are granted, her children's chances of becoming Malaysian citizens diminish drastically," she said.

She said the amendment to the Malaysian law, which is expected to be applied without it being enforced retroactively, does not offer a solution.

"If passed as drafted, children like mine, born in 2011 and 2019, will have no recourse to their mother's citizenship.

"This discussion would be irrelevant if I were a Malaysian man."

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories