Stateless in Sabah


Sabah’s large migrant population has long been tolerated by the local people albeit with some disdain. But with the violent events of the past year, it is getting harder and harder for them to let sleeping dogs lie.

Any tourist walking along Kota Kinabalu’s famed waterfront will, sooner or later, encounter a tout waving a booklet for island tours and boat trips. He will be pushing his services enthusiastically, often speaking in choppy English with an accent that is strongly foreign.

It is well known that a large number of Sabah’s inhabitants are saddled with a complicated legal status. The luckier ones are migrants with proper documentation proving their permanent residence or refugee status. But many do not have proper documents, and some are even without a nationality. These are indeed “stateless people”.

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