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Empowering community paralegals to address statelessness

  • Amount funded: £189,376
  • Year: 2019
  • Duration: 48 months
  • Locations: Malaysia
  • Grant stream: Annual Grants Call

Malaysia’s stateless persons have restricted access to basic rights, such as health, education, and social protection.

Project partners
Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas
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How we are helping

Supporting our partners to train 120 community paralegals to monitor and work with government in its efforts to address statelessness, assist stateless persons in gaining access to services, and raise awareness.

About the project

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 10,931 stateless persons in Malaysia. Stateless persons have restricted access to basic rights, such as health, education, and social protection. They also have limited job opportunities which affects their ability to break the cycle of poverty and marginalisation. The impacts of statelessness are passed on from one generation to the next. It is estimated that more than 15,000 children born in Malaysia between 2012 and 2017 were denied citizenship.

The Government of Malaysia continues to work to address statelessness. It established a ‘campaign to increase its efforts to promote access to nationality and is accepting applications from stateless people to grant them Malaysian identity cards. The current Prime Minister has announced his commitment to solving the issue and paving the way to citizenship for several categories of stateless people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has noted that there are provisions in Malaysia’s citizenship laws that if fully applied, could help to resolve the nationality status of stateless persons in Malaysia. It also highlights that ‘addressing this issue at a policy level may be one of the ways to resolve citizenship and documentation problems faced by communities in Malaysia as a whole’. This project seeks to assist the Government of Malaysia in its efforts to address statelessness and builds on successes achieved in Western Malaysia. The project will address statelessness and its specific effects on vulnerable groups of children and women. It will support the government to address statelessness by providing evidence and recommendations based on the experiences of community paralegals and stateless persons in four states. The project will achieve this by:

  • training 120 community paralegals in four states to help monitor and engage government agencies
  • setting up four monitoring committees comprised of community paralegals, civil society representatives, social workers, and local leaders, in order to monitor and engage government agencies to address statelessness
  • providing legal and other advice to stateless persons, including monitoring progress of citizenship applications and access to services
  • developing forty case studies to highlight challenges and opportunities in addressing statelessness
  • producing a report on gaps and challenges identified by monitoring committees;
  • sharing issues and recommendations with government agencies and other stakeholders at state and national level; and
  • conducting an awareness campaign on statelessness.

As a result of the project, it is anticipated that: 120 community paralegals will have increased capacity to monitor administrative procedures, and improved ability to advocate with government; stateless persons will have improved access to services; and through awareness activities, dialogues, and national consultations, approximately 1,100 stakeholders, including government officials, will be better informed on the needs and priorities of stateless persons. The project will be implemented in four states in Malaysia. If successful, there is potential for the project to be replicated in other parts of the country.

Project Partners
Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas

DHRRA is a non-profit and non-political organisation based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. It is affiliated to a regional organisation known as Asia DHRRA which is a partnership of eleven social development networks and organisations in ten Asian nations. It works to address welfare issues, homelessness, provides training, psychological counselling, and facilitates access to education.

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Governance Areas
Social inclusion
Human rights