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.”