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The Rights of Migrant Children

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The Rights of Migrant Children – Seminar in Sabah

On December 4 VoC participated in a seminar in Sabah organised by the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia in partnership with SUHAKAM and UNICEF on “The Rights of Migrant Children”.

The main focus of the seminar was migrant children’s right to education, but birth registration and healthcare provisions were also highlighted. Denying education to migrant children is like investing in social and civil disorder for the future generations, since in high probability a life of crime would be awaiting these uneducated children.  The problem is that without the relevant documents, migrant children are unable to access public education, social services and legal protection.

SUHAKAM Commissioner Encik Nordin Mandating pointed out that Malaysia’s reservation to Article 28(1)(a) is one of the main causes of denial of education.  However, simple lifting the reservation will not provide access to education to these children and amendments are also necessary to be made in the domestic statutes.

UNICEF Representative, Ms. Wivina Blemonte, acknowledged Malaysia’s commitment towards the CRC.  She stated that reservations to certain articles are understandable and that UNICEF is working with the government to lift these reservations.

She also acknowledged Malaysia’s impressive achievement in providing primary education to 95% of its children and said that UNICEF’s job is to make sure the 5% left behind are also included in this statistic.  UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education, Sabah Task Force and the Economic and Planning Unit on a programme to provide primary education to children.

Mr. Torbin Venning, Director of Humana Child Aid Society, spoke about Humana’s work in providing education for children in plantations.  Some children’s parents are not legally employed and thus the children cannot access public education.  Even those whose parents have valid documents or permanent residence status can only access public education for their children with an annual fee.

Humana provides education for about 12.000 children and has also employed both Indonesian and Filipino teachers to ensure these migrant children get primary education so that when and if they go back to their countries they aren’t uneducated and can continue with their secondary education.

Commissioner Nordin also highlighted the rise in infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis amongst “illegal” migrants and that government should provide healthcare to migrants regardless of their nationality.

Hopefully with the joint efforts of the EU, UNICEF, SUHAKAM, Humana and the government the serious violations of the basic rights of migrant children in Sabah can be rectified.

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