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Tough life, but at least Rohingya migrants not living in fear anymore

By Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
May 27, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR — Aluminium cans as bowling pins, children playing in the rain, women peeling vegetables on the sidewalk, and little table-top businesses selling snacks and drinks. 

These are some of the daily scenes of the local Rohingya community that have sought refuge in the area surrounding the Selayang Wholesale Market. 

After a long day, they return to a shoplot unit consisting of six to seven rooms separated by thin plywood. Each room houses a family of at least four members and they all share two communal bathrooms. 

The children are not allowed to attend regular school as they lack proper documentation, and when they are old enough, they resort to doing odd-jobs to assist with the costs of their families. 

“This is all we can ever afford. So we have learned to share and live together,” said Nur Sahara Nur Mia, a 65-year-old Rohingya refugee. 

Nur Sahara and herdaughter, Golbahor Abu Tahir, 38, came to Malaysia to escape the persecution in Myanmar in 1988. 

They live together with Golbahor’s daughter, Hirana Yasin, 19, in a makeshift room together with six other children. 

“Living in Malaysia has been such a blessing as we no longer face hostility and our families do not have to live in fear anymore,” Nur Sahara said.

“So now I just look after my grand and great-grand children and try to get them to attend classes to learn to read and write.”

Hirana, who has learned to read and write with help from her friends in religious classes, said she hoped to finish school someday. In the meantime, she prepares and cooks sambal for a local business to make ends meet.

About 500 other migrants also live and work in the surrounding area, earning an average wage of RM30 a day.

Asked for their reaction towards the recently discovered mass graves of possible Myanmar migrants, they were all sympathetic but were not surprised by the discovery. 

“We are all willing to help, but there is only so much we can do. We will pray for their safety and wellbeing,” Galbahor said.

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Rohingya Exodus