Home Civil Society Voices 2013 Civil Society Voices More humane policy need for widowed/divorced foreign spouses of Malaysian citizens

More humane policy need for widowed/divorced foreign spouses of Malaysian citizens

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It is time that foreign spouses be treated as a part of the Malaysian family framework, considering that they are key caregivers and providers, writes the Foreign Spouses Support Group.

At the Immigration Department
Photograph: amdtaufik.com

With increased globalisation, transnational marriages are more widespread, necessitating a more humane policy for foreign spouses of Malaysian citizens.

Income earned by us foreign spouses is spent on our Malaysian families within the country and there is no ringgit outflow to other countries. One has to bear in mind that this category of migrant spouses have children and spouses who are Malaysians, having lived in Malaysia for years and even decades, giving up their rights in their own homelands.

Our thanks go out to the Home Minister, who cleared a huge backlog of Permanent Resident (PR) applications; however the policy of spouses who are faced with domestic violence or who are estranged, divorced or widowed needs immediate consideration in view of their vulnerability and their dependency on their sponsors.

Due reflection should be given to the fact that these spouses are parents of their Malaysian children and have lived in Malaysia for years. When faced with separation or death of their Malaysian spouses, their visas and right to livelihood are severely restricted, which exposes the Malaysian family to very traumatic conditions.

Do bear in mind that these non-Malaysian parents are already coping with the stress of loss or separation from their spouses and now will have to face the additional burden of very unstable visa conditions. Should the custody of the children go to the Malaysian parents, the non-Malaysian spouses are faced with the prospect of having to leave the country and not having access to the children.

Widowed or divorced non-Malaysian spouses may have the custody of their children but on a tenuous six-month visa, which prohibits them from employment in Malaysia. How are they then to provide for their children and themselves? This deprives the family of stability, their right to livelihood and a life of dignity.

Spouses have difficulties claiming the assets of their deceased Malaysian spouses due to their visa status and inability to support themselves while waiting for the asset administration. It is believed upon the death of a spouse, even their PR application get withdrawn. This is further compounded when even children upon attaining age 21 years are unable to apply for PR for their non-Malaysian parent. Therefore these foreign spouses will have to remain in this country on six-month visas until death. Remember that one cannot seek employment on the six-month visa.

Many of us spouses have been living in Malaysia for decades, Malaysia is our first home, we hardly have family and support systems back in our home countries.

Please do understand our situation, our vulnerability and provide a policy of granting Permanent Residence taking into account the best interest of the family.

The writer is the coordinator of the Foreign Spouses Support Group

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