About Omadal

The conditions of the stateless children in Omadal:

The majority of the 156 stateless households in Omadal live in destitute living conditions. They lack basic amenities like food, clean water, electricity, sanitation, and medical access. Their children suffer malnutrition and many resort to begging tourists for food or money [2][5]. Recently, while sending food relief during the MCO [18], we took the opportunity to also conduct an informal census. It has brought us further insights into the dire needs of the community. The census reveals that about 62% of the families earn less than RM10 a day, and 23% earn between RM11 to RM20 a day [2]. Almost half of the households cramped 6 to 10 family members in a stilted-house or boathouse. Their daily diet consists of only rice, tapioca, and any catch of the day daily [ibid].

Their children are part of the 50,000 undocumented children in Sabah as reported by Aljazeera in 2016 [3]. The Unicef estimated these ‘invisible’ children at 18,781 [4]. The children are stateless because of both their undocumented parents [2][5]. For generations, their families resided in the water of Semporna. They roamed the Sulu Sea as subsistence fishermen since before the creation of borders and nations [5]. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, many missed the Malaysian citizenship registration in 1969 [ibid]. While some fled the armed conflict in Southwestern Mindanao in the 1970s to seek refuge in Sabah [5][6]. Most have lost their UNHCR refugees passes or IMM13 passes issued by the Sabah Immigration, Kad Burung issued by the Chief Minister’s office, and Surat Lepa-lepa issued by the Panglima [ibid]. Hence resulting in their predicament – undocumented and stateless
The stateless Bajau Laut children inherited poverty from their parents. Impoverished. Malnourished. Stateless. Without documents, they are bound in Omadal, risking detention if they leave. They live in fear daily. They also stay illiterate, unable to enrol in school. There are about 200 of them aged between four to sixteen who should be in school. But can’t. They are timid, feel inferior and lack self-esteem. A result of systemic and cultural discrimination, especially of their different way of life, in particular the basic hygiene. Without intervention, these children and generations to come will remain in the statelessness poverty cycle forever.