Meet Sabah’s Invisible Children

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    In a confronting documentary, 101 East exposes the harsh reality of life for Sabah’s stateless children and explores the precarious future that awaits them.

    In this critical investigation, Al Jazeera’s 101 East exposes the hidden struggles of Sabah’s undocumented children.

    Estimated to number at least 50,000, Sabah’s hidden children are among Malaysia’s most vulnerable.

    They are the offspring of illegal migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia or Bajau Laut, the nomadic sea tribe.

    In some cases, their families have lived in Malaysia for generations, but their parents don’t register their births due to fear of arrest.

    The children are citizens of no country. Denied access to public schools and healthcare, the children and their parents can be detained at any time and deported, even though Malaysia is often the only home the children have ever known.

    Unable to attend Malaysian schools, some undocumented children attend makeshift schools set up by non-government organisations.

    101 East visited a school in Semporna, made of several plastic sheets held together with four poles. Hundreds of students cram under the sheets to escape the hot sun.

    A Bajau father teaches his son how to mend a net. The children and their parents live in constant fear of being arrested and deported. – Picture by Sarah Yeo, April 30, 2015.

    A Bajau father teaches his son how to mend a net. The children and their parents live in constant fear of being arrested and deported. – Picture by Sarah Yeo, April 30, 2015.

    But it is what comes after class that draws them here – the free serving of rice porridge the school dishes out to each child. A teacher tells us that many students sniff glue to stave off hunger.

    “They are very poor. They don’t have enough food to eat,” says teacher Jerry Abbas.

    The children say that they buy glue after school for RM0.50 a spoonful.

    The villages across Sabah’s eastern coast are where many of these illegal migrants live.

    These villages are known as ‘black areas’ to authorities, as they are hotspots for drug dealers, insurgents and armed intrusions. – Picture by Sarah Yeo, April 30, 2015.

    The authorities call some of these villages “black areas” – hotspots for drug dealers, insurgents and armed intrusion.  Police have stepped-up operations to flush out illegal migrants, smuggling and drug dealing in recent months.

    “When we enter an area for a spot check, undocumented people – as well as those carrying out illegal activities – are bound to scatter,” says Commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun.

    In Lahad Datu town, a recent raid took a tragic turn. Three teenaged boys died while hiding from authorities. Official reports say that the boys drowned, but there are allegations that authorities sprayed gas into the cramped hiding place under the market.

    Police deny the claim.

    Source: www.aljazeera.com

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