Stateless children of Borneo

Thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some have lived there for many years and have families. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Others are exploited by traffickers. Many are Bajau sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Muslim Sulu area of Southern Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border from Kalimantan seeking work.

Many of the Bajau Laut sea gypsies have now settled in Sabah. Climate change, overfishing and poverty have caused them to give up their nomadic life on the sea in favour of the shanty towns of coastal Sabah. The presence of migrants has been tolerated because many are contributing work in the state. However in recent years a rise in Muslim terrorist activity at tourist resorts around the coast has made the government less tolerant towards the migrants and less inclined to provide residency papers. So these shanty communities remain in limbo, trapped in an insecure situation where they cannot progress.

This story follows children from the shanty villages of Gaya Island, offshore from capital Kota Kinabalu, as they fight, play and hustle for a living in the capital’s busy fish docks and markets.

 


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    A boatman climbs into his boat beneath a shanty village built over the water offshore from Gaya island. Thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people.
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    Children look out from a mosque in the shanty village of Gaya island.
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    A boy paddles using his shoes in an upturned aluminium washing-up bowl he is using as a boat offshore from Gaya Isand, Sabah, East-Malaysia. He is one of thousands of stateless people on Gaya island, mainly from the Bajau Laut community of sea-gypsies and immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines.
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    Thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    A boy leaps of a rickety walkway outside his shanty home into the sea below. Sprawling shanty villages have grown up around Gaya island offshore from the capital Kota Kinabalu.
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    A boy walks through discarded garbage covering the beach at his shanty village of houses on stilts roughly built over the water on Gaya Island, offshore from the State capital of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia. Like thousands of others, he has no formal immigration status and is considered ‘stateless’. As such he cannot go to school.
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    People await the taxiboat off Gaya island to take them to the capital Kota Kinabalu in the background.
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    Thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children born here. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines.
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    Fish cover the Filipino fish dock having been unloaded from the hold of a trawler. The trawler had been at sea for 30 days. The different species of fish are separated into boxes, labelled, weighed and loaded onto vehicles for distribution from Kota Kinabalu the capital of Sabah, East Malaysia.
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    A boy who has just been hit looks enviously at another boy who is holding a handful of fish. Stateless, these Bajau Laut sea-gypsy boys cannot go to school. Instead they loiter around the fish dock pretending to work and scrounging or stealing fish which they will then try to sell on the street.
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    A Filipino dock worker sorts different species of fish into separate boxes as they are unloaded from trawlers at the Filipino fish dock in Kota Kinabalu the capital of Sabah, East Malaysia.
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    This boy is getting bullied by the older boys at the Filipino ship dock, some of whom now work there. The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children born here. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people.
  • Stateless_Sabah14
    The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children born here. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines.
  • Stateless_Sabah15
    The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children born here. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines.
  • Stateless_Sabah16
    Trawler fishermen unload their catch onto the dockside having been at sea for a month. The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island.
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    A boy plays in an icebox on the dockside in Kota Kinabalu.
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    Masked trawler men unload their catch.
  • Stateless_Sabah19
    The Filipino fish docks in Kota Kinabalu are a hive of activity where fish are landed from Filipino trawlers, many of which have been out to sea for weeks at a time. The fishermen are among thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children born here. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition, children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines.
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    A boy stands on the edge of a garbage skip at the entrance to the Filipino market in Kota Kinabalu. With no immigration documentation, he and the other children in the picture are classed as ‘Stateless’ and cannot go to school. Instead they start work at an early age as porters in the Filipino market. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia.
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    The hair of the boy to the right has a nutrient deficiency common among immigrant street kids.
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    Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    A boy points at another boy among a groups standing on porter trolleys and watching the sunset. Every evening ‘stateless’ children gather at the Filipino market in the town centre, where they work as porters because they are not eligible to join the state school education system. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
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    Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    A trawler off the coast of Kota Kinabalu at sunset.
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    Stateless street children self-study at dusk outside the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    A fishwoman displays her fresh fish in the Filipino market in Sabah.
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    Market stallholders at their fish stall in the Filipino market.
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    A boy sits on an icebox at dusk among the junk and garbage at the back of the Filipino market. Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs.
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    A boy in the Filipino market receives a coin from a customer for his services of providing a plastic bag for fish which he will then carry for his customer. Thousands of undocumented migrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years and have children. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people.
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    Children play fighting at night outside the Filipino market. Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people.
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    Two undocumented migrant sisters hustle for customers in the Filipino market in Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu.
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    Two girls await payment for a plastic bag in the Filipino market in Kota Kinabalu.
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    A girl is caught red handed stealing sate chicken in the Filipino market. Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    Sate stalls at the Filipino market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital.
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    Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.
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    A boy plays in the Filipino market with a plastic bag over his head. Having received no school education he is unaware of the dangers of suffocation. Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market in Koto Kinabalu, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers.
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    Two boys play a favourite game of 'coin' outside a public toilet in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah. Stateless street children loiter around the Filipino market, getting up to mischief and searching for menial work as porters and bag carriers. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Sabah, East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Some of them have lived there for many years with children born there. Not eligible for official documentation they are stateless people. Lacking official recognition their children cannot attend state school and many end up with no education working in menial jobs. Many are Bajau laut sea-gypsies, others are immigrants from the Sulu area of The Philippines. Indonesian workers also come across the porous border with Kalimantan.


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