Rohingya children in Malaysia, an undocumented life
Rohingya children in Malaysia grow up stateless in the country where many of them were born.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Many of the approximately 150,000 (PDF) Rohingya who live in Malaysia came here hoping to be relocated to other countries through UNHCR programmes, but some of them have made Malaysia their home, despite the fact that they have no legal status and face many hardships as a result.
Many Rohingya refugee children are born in Malaysia, and remain stateless owing to the undocumented status of their parents.
According to Chia Wei, founder of The Berani Project, the main consequences of this undefined status and lack of identification documents is that the children are “cut off [from] the basic child’s rights to education [and] healthcare.”
The Berani Project is a social enterprise advocating and creating opportunities for the Rohingya communities and other marginalised people in Kuala Lumpur. Wei explains that “many [children] are forced to work from a young age to help their families”.
“The Rohingya, as most of them are undocumented, live in fear of being detained, arrested or deported,” explains Ustaz Rafik, a leader of the Rohingya community in Selayang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
“The thought of risks like being harassed, abducted, detained, will discourage the parents from sending their children to school,” he says. As a result Rohingya refugee children spend their childhoods in their neighbourhoods, and almost never leave their community.
The children attend community schools funded by donations, where they learn about religion, the Malay language, and other literacy basic skills. Some of the schools offer longer daily schedules to help parents who work.
Nazri Mazlan, a teacher at “Floating Children” School for Rohingya children, says the children face many challenges. “The primary issue with education is the lack of reinforcement from home. We can teach the children but if what they are taught is not reinforced by the families of the community the children will see little value in the lessons.”
At Pelangi Kasih community school, girls sleep in a classroom during the lunch break. The school, opened in March, provides education for 150 of the 300 children in the community. The children are in school from 8am to 5pm, and receive a basic lunch meal. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Children at the Rohingya Education Center community school in Klang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, watch a cartoon during a break. The children who graduate from community schools cannot attend national exams as they do not have proper identification documents. Their UNHCR refugee identification card is not sufficient for government school admission. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Seven-year-old Jamal does not speak the Malay language, so the teacher at the ‘Floating Children’ community school cannot teach him English, maths, reading or writing. Nevertheless, he attended class daily for a few months, following his friends and playing during class, until his family moved away to another neighbourhood. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Husin Amo is two months old and was born in a Rohingya community close to Batu Caves, at the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He was born in a hospital in the area and needed gastric surgery soon after being born. At the time of his birth his father was in Immigration Detention because he didn’t have ID documents. The hospitalization costs for mother and baby were paid by private donations. Because undocumented Rohingya have no access to state healthcare services, the costs for them are the same as for any foreigner living in Malaysia. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Haslina, centre, is an 18-year-old Rohingya single mother of two children, aged 1 and 3. She was born in Malaysia, her children are second generation born here. Her husband left her and he gives her $12 a week for the children. She and her children live with a friend. Her friend, who is also a single mother took them in to live with her family of nine. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Students attend a class at the Pelangi Kasih community school in Batu Caves area. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Abu Siddiq holds his two-year-old son Abu Tolob in their house in the Rohingya community in the Batu Caves area at the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Majidah is nine. She is the only girl regularly attending classes at the Floating Children school in the Cheras Rohingya Community. Currently, only seven of about 30 children in the community attend the school regularly, for two hours a day. They learn writing, maths, English and Malay through interactive quizzes. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
Majidah, one of the Rohingya children from the Floating Children community school in Cheras, rides a slide during the school’s monthly field trip to UCSI International School in Subang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]
A Rohingya child carries bags of food received at the monthly food donation organised by MyWelfare, a Rohingya community-based NGO in Selayang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. About 500 families in the Selayang Rohingya community receive rice, sugar, oil and other basic foods from donations every month. Community-based NGOs are the main advocates for the Rohingya needs. [Alexandra Radu/Al Jazeera]