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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                             


Malaysia, a middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. After coming to office in 2003, former Prime Minister Abdullah tried to move the economy farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high technology industries, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals. The Government of Malaysia is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand to wean the economy off of its dependence on exports. Nevertheless, exports - particularly of electronics - remain a significant driver of the economy.


Real GDP growth averaged about 6% per year under Abdullah, but regions outside of Kuala Lumpur and the manufacturing hub Penang did not fare as well.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Malaysia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Helping Malaysia's street children

Jasbant Singh, Al Jazeera, Kuala Lumpur, 06 Aug 2007

[accessed 17 June 2011]

About 500 children are left to loiter at night in the back streets minutes away from the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur city centre. Some are as young as six-years old.  Some have no home to go to, others cannot go home because home is where their mothers work as prostitutes.

"I know people say what I do is immoral and not good for children, but if I don't do this who's going to feed my child?" asks Anita, one of Kuala Lumpur's sex workers.  Anita works in the back allies of the suburb of Chow Kit. She is dying of cancer.  She has an 11-year-old son who roams the streets while his mother is at work. At school, his classmates and his teachers picked on him because of his family background and so he does not go to school any more.  Three years ago, he was put in a welfare home, but he ran away. Back to his mother.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

CHILDREN - The government has demonstrated a commitment to children's rights and welfare and allocated approximately 25 percent of the national budget to education. The government provides free education for children through age 15. Although primary education is compulsory, there is no enforcement mechanism governing school attendance. Attendance at primary school was 96 percent, while secondary school attendance was 82 percent. A variety of programs provided low cost health care for most children.

Sabah State had a problem of street children. Estimated to number anywhere from a few score to a few hundred, they were born in the country to illegal immigrant parents who had been deported. These children lacked citizenship and access to government‑provided support.

No documents, so street children of KK can’t get into school

Muguntan Vanar, The Star, Kota Kinabalu, January 18, 2009

[accessed 17 June 2011]

Haris is among a few hundred “document-less” children mainly from marriages between locals and foreigners. Without any valid documents, they are unable to enrol in schools.

The children mostly become “street kids” taking up odd jobs ranging from car washing to peddling contraband cigarettes. Many are blamed for various crimes such as petty thefts here and in other parts of the state.

However, Azlan Jeh, 12, said not all the children were involved in unhealthy activities.   “We work and go fishing although we don’t go to school.”

Sabah to rescue street children

Muguntan Vanar, The Star, Kota Kinabalu, July 9, 2008

[accessed 17 June 2011]

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said the special operation to rescue street children would be conducted at major towns where these children are not schooling and were mostly loitering and peddling goods in the streets.

"Not all of them are children of foreigners. We have found that children of locals are also resorting to street peddling activities.

"They are not involved in crimes but more involved in selling contraband cigarettes, lottery results and begging, among other things," he told reporters Wednesday after launching the Campaign for Security, Unity and Harmony.

Undocumented children in Sabah vulnerable to statelessness

Camilla Olson, Refugees International, 06/13/2007

[accessed 17 June 2011]

[accessed 24 December 2016]

Decades of irregular migration to Sabah in eastern Malaysia have resulted in large numbers of undocumented children of migrants from the Philippines and Indonesia who are potentially at risk of statelessness. Undocumented migrants in Malaysia are targets for arrest and deportation, which in some cases has left their children alone on the street.

The exact number of street children in Sabah is unknown, but they are estimated to be in the thousands, mostly of Filipino descent. There is strong local resentment of undocumented migrants in Sabah, and the street children are portrayed as a criminal element by authorities and the media. The children working at the fish markets are wary of outsiders and are under constant threat of raids by police. In 2006, the police arrested about 160 street children who were placed in detention. Those with family contacts were eventually released, but there is no information on the whereabouts of the others.

Zugoh, a 12-year-old boy of Filipino descent, works through the night at a fish market in Kota Kinabalu. He pushes a heavy wooden cart hoping that customers will allow him to transport their purchases to their car. Zugoh earns around 1 MYR, or 30 cents per customer. Zugoh does not have a father. He has a mother, but he does not stay with her. Zugoh told RI that he sleeps somewhere on the street near the fish market. He does not go to school, and he has no identity documents.

The Government of Malaysia has been cracking down on irregular migrants in the country. In Sabah, raids are conducted in housing areas where the migrants live and in markets and public areas where many work. Those arrested are deported back to their country of origin. Many children whose parents have been deported and who do not have any other family or guardian in Sabah end up living and working on the street at a very young age, often in fish markets. A local community worker told RI, "It's those who have nobody who are there [in the fish markets]."

Special squads to help ‘street children’ of Johor

Hamdan Raja Abdullah, The Star, Muar, September 12, 2007

[accessed 17 June 2011]

[accessed 24 December 2016]

Special squads will be formed by the state to help “street children” found loitering in Johor Baru.

The squads will help and guide these children and provide then with skills training.

She said the children, mostly aged between 11 and 19, had been roaming the city, including in the wee hours, although many had parents.   “We want to save these children before they get into trouble and become a nuisance. Plans are under way to set up special squads to help guide, train and advise these children,” she said.

From streets to schools

New Straits Times, April 20, 2007

[partially accessed 17 June 2011 - access restricted]

Society tends to see street children as social sores who tarnish the tourist landscape and make a general nuisance of themselves with their aimless loitering, hassling for handouts and sleeping in the streets. Many respectable citizens would like nothing better than to see the authorities harry homeless kids, take them off the streets and put them in the special homes for the wayward.

Sabah building shelter home for immigrant street children

Ruben Sario, The Star, April 18, 2007

[accessed 17 June 2011]

[accessed 24 December 2016]

Sabah is building a RM1.9mil shelter home and vocational training centre for immigrant street children, Assistant Minister of Community Development Jornah Mozihim told the state assembly. 

She told Mohd Kamil Datuk Mohd Kassim (BN-Tanjung Batu) that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry would provide the funds for the shelter in Inanam.

We will get kids back in school

Deborah Loh, Putrajaya

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 June 2011]

"If somebody can identify them and bring them to us, we’ll find ways to get them back in school," he said after his ministry’s post-cabinet meeting yesterday.

The report said the children were between 14 and 18 years old. About 16 of them are often seen roaming Johor Baru’s streets, sleeping on cardboard boxes on the pavement, eating restaurant leftovers, using public washrooms and braving older boys who extort money from them.

The teenagers had said that they preferred to spend time on the streets as their families were poor or they came from broken homes, and teachers and fellow students ridiculed them in school.

Cops warn those who buy 4-D result sheets from street kids

Kota Kinabalu, March 29, 2007

[accessed 18 January 2017]

City Police Chief, ACP Ku Chin Wah, said police would be pulling up people who buy 4-D result sheets from street children in the city.  "We will arrest those who stop and buy the result sheets, just as we would arrest the children," he said.

Fund-raiser today for homeless, street children in Chow Kit

Kuala Lumpur, 29 Jun 2006

[accessed 18 January 2017]

They have a place to stay during the day but at night, they sleep under bridges or at stalls in the Chow Kit area.  This is the fate of children with the Pusat Aktiviti Kanak-Kanak Chow Kit, which has to close at 5pm every day since it is only licensed as a day-care centre.

Street kids facing bleak future... unless they can bend it like Beckham

Jaswinder Kaur, 24 Jun 2006

[accessed 18 January 2017]

The boys are among thousands of children born to Filipino migrants who, for decades, have been crossing rough seas to seek a better life in Sabah.

Many have Malaysian birth certificates but can’t apply for MyKad as their parents are from the Philippines. Others don’t even have any documents.

These children have no choice but to roam the streets in search of money. While some try to earn a decent living, others pester tourists and locals for money. Some even charge motorists a ‘protection fee’ for guarding their cars.

Malaysian Judicial Whitewash

Eric F. Mallonga, The Manila Times, March 08, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 June 2011]

Malaysian police apprehended all street children and retarded children for deportation to the Philippines on Mahathir’s sweeping presumption that all street children and retarded children in Sabah are Filipinos. Such presumption is borne from Malaysia’s desire to rid itself of “unfit” people.

EDITORIAL: Save the children

The New Straits Times, Feb 1, 2008

[Last access date unavailable]

With no legal status, they become fugitives from the law. Unschooled and unqualified, they do odd jobs and peddle pirated VCDs or contraband cigarettes to keep body and soul together. Desperation and despair drive some to sell their bodies or into crime. They are falling through the cracks and there is no refuge nor respite for these fatherless and motherless street children in Sabah.

Street Children List Education As Their Priority

Daily Express, 18 July, 2005

[Last access date unavailable]

According to Fernandez, the children said they want education when asked on their first priority.  During her dialogue with Sabahans, she learned that Sabah is poor and cannot afford to fund the education of street kids.

Malaysia starts major crackdown on illegal immigrants

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press Agency) DPA, KUALA LUMPUR, March 2, 2005

[accessed 11 Aug  2013]

Malaysia on Tuesday launched a large-scale crackdown on hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants after delaying the operations three times.  Ten lorries and six buses along with more than 500 volunteers and immigration officers set off on the first day of the operations to carry out nationwide raids shortly after midnight, following the expiry of a four-month amnesty.

During the amnesty period, which began in October, nearly 400,000 illegal workers out of the estimated one million immigrants left the country without facing any penalties.

Children Pay High Price of Asian Economic Miracle

Tony Austin, Free Vietnam Alliance (FVA), Jan 1996

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 June 2011]

In Cambodia, 20 percent of all beggars are children, and China has 200,000 street children; Indonesia has 50,000 working children, 75,000 in Malaysia, 15,000 street working children and 100,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines, and 50,000 homeless children in Vietnam.

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