By Christina Hermoso
The Catholic Church, led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, is set to observe the National Migrants Sunday on March 10 as a fitting tribute to all overseas Filipino workers and to highlight the disturbing plight of stateless persons that include thousands of Filipino children.
With the theme “Stateless Filipino Children: A Challenge for the Church,” Rev. Fr. Restituto Ogsimer, executive secretary of the CBCP-ECMI said, the Church must continue to strengthen its advocacy in fighting for the rights of stateless people particularly Filipino children.
“The Church continues 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 said in a CBCP News post.
“Statelessness challenges both the Church of origin and the receiving Churches. There is also an urgent need for policies and laws to recognize and promote just treatment and to provide basic material needs for these children,” the priest said.
Statistics cover 3.7 million stateless people in 78 countries, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said there are at least 10 million stateless people across the world.
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 illegally. Malaysian immigration law does not grant legal status to children of immigrants.
“In effect, the children are not registered and are victims of conflict in nationality laws and are in statelessness status; putting them in a more vulnerable situation. They cannot be enrolled in formal school for proper education, and have no access to basic health care,” Ogsimer lamented.
As of 2015, reported statistics showed that some 40 percent of the world’s stateless people or more than 1.4 million were living in Southeast Asia, including about 7,138 in the Philippines.