The Catholic Church’s body for migrants in the Philippines on March 1, 2019, urged help for stateless persons, a “disturbing” global phenomenon affecting thousands of Filipino children.
Fr. Restituto Ogsimer, executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said that church people must advocate for the rights of stateless people.
Just like the way it responds to the asylum seekers and refugees in the Philippines, he said the church is looking and must continue to find ways to assist these children.
“We are the church, let us act now, seek them out and extend our hands the farthest it can reach to care for them, to embrace them and to make them feel loved and recognize their existence in our midst,” Ogsimer wrote in his message for the National Migrants’ Sunday to be observed on March 10.
According to him, statelessness challenges both the church of origin and the receiving churches, stressing the need for a vigorous campaign to mainstream the discourse on the issue.
He also emphasized the need for policies and laws to recognize and promote “just treatment” and to provide basic material needs for them especially the young.
Current statistics cover 3.7 million stateless people in 78 countries, while the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that at least 10 million people globally could be stateless.
In Malaysia’s Sabah state, it is believed that more than 10,000 children are born to Filipino migrant parents who entered and worked in the country without proper documents.
Malaysian immigration law does not grant legal status to children of immigrants.
“In effect, the children are not registered and became victims of conflict in nationality laws and are in statelessness status; putting them in a more vulnerable situation,” Ogsimer said.
“They cannot even be enrolled in formal school for proper education; and have no access to basic health care,” he added.
As of 2015, reported statistics showed that some 40 percent of the world’s stateless people – more than 1.4 million – were living in Southeast Asia, including about 7,138 in the Philippines.
It was in 1987 when the bishops initiated the celebration of the National Migrants’ Sunday to promote awareness in the church and society on the issues and concerns linked to overseas Filipino migration.
The annual event not only paid tribute to millions of overseas Filipino workers and their families left behind but also highlighted the church’s effort to help them cope with the effects of labor migration on their lives.