Witness #9 | Priscilla Collar
I am Priscilla, a Malaysian woman married to a French national, and I have three children. Two of my children who were born in France are still awaiting Malaysian citizenship, and hold French passports. I have a son aged four, who was born in Malaysia and holds Malaysian citizenship.
I lived in France from 2009 to 2015. Throughout my time in France, I remained in close and frequent contact with the Embassy of Malaysia in Paris, yet was never informed of my limited rights to confer citizenship, even when I gave birth to my eldest daughter in 2010, and second daughter in 2012. With the exception of the six years in France, my entire life has been spent in Malaysia.
In September 2015, I returned to Malaysia when my husband and I separated. It was at this point that I was made aware of the citizenship provisions that prohibited me from passing on my Malaysian citizenship to my two children, Juliette and Abigail. On 2 December 2015, I had submitted applications for citizenship under article 15(2) [of the Federal Constitution] for both my daughters. On 28 February 2019, I received notification that the Minister of Home Affairs had rejected both applications. During this period of waiting, I received no updates or notification on the progress of the applications despite contacting the Ministry of Home Affairs numerous times. On 15 April 2019, I submitted applications for citizenship for my daughters for the second time. I have yet to receive a decision.
In order to acquire 90-day tourist visas for both of my daughters, they had to exit and re-enter the country every 90 days to acquire new visas. Between 2015 and 2017, my daughters and I had made nine trips. Each trip had cost approximately RM4,000, making it an estimated total of RM36,000 spent on visa runs alone. I, as a single mom, had to take on two jobs to keep up with the costs. In 2016, when I was unable to take time off work, my daughters overstayed their tourist visas by three days and were fined RM100 each. At the time, I made appeals to the Department of Immigration but was eventually forced to entrust a friend to make the visa run on my behalf, with my two daughters.
I had to endure harsh comments from officers during the many visits to Government offices on visa matters, including questions on the legitimacy of my marriage, suggestions that I should remarry my former husband (the divorce was finalised on 28 June 2017), and requests for proof of maternity via a DNA test.
In 2018, I enrolled my daughters in an international school, and have since been able to secure a yearly student visa for them. The cost to apply for a student pass is RM60 per student per year paid to the Government, which requires medical insurance for which I pay RM1,454 yearly. Each student pass requires me to also pay RM550 to the school; thus far totalling RM5,500. In February 2021, amidst the Government-mandated Movement Control Orders in their location of residence (mandated due to the heightened exposure to COVID-19), both their student passes were still required to be renewed.
Further, both are enrolled in an international school because of the many hurdles they face, as non-citizens, in accessing public schools. Due to this, I am required to pay a substantial amount each year for their education: from 2017 to 2021, I paid RM135,730 for the eldest daughter and RM173,148 for the younger daughter. This is a cost that would have otherwise been free if they were able to obtain my Malaysian citizenship as their Malaysian mother. Our family is left in a vulnerable position especially at this time during the pandemic, when my industry of employment, hospitality, has been severely crippled, causing me to lose my job.
I do not receive financial support from my former husband for Juliette and Abigail’s schooling or medical insurance — both of which they cannot access at affordable rates in Malaysia. I worry that if I cannot afford international school, my children would go uneducated, causing me to lose custody. On top of that, I also do not receive the social welfare schemes offered by the Government for my children, such as the economic stimulus package offered to support the public during the pandemic.
I am suffering from extreme financial hardship because of the citizenship laws that prevent me from conferring my nationality to my children, just because I am a woman. Every year my daughters’ visas need to be processed, and I have to pay for private schooling and exorbitant healthcare rates. This country is supposed to be protecting me, yet as a single Malaysian mother, I am put in a situation of extreme vulnerability and insecurity, and in constant fear of losing my children.