A Sabah lawyer met Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Putrajaya to try to find a way to help over 8,000 stateless children in the east Malaysian state. Photo: Google Maps

More than 8,000 children of migrant workers living in Sabah, Malaysia, are marginalized and lack basic rights because they are “stateless” and have no identity documents, a local human rights activist has said.

Lee Pun Yee, president of Sabah People’s Rights Association (SPRA), brought two kilograms of documents when he went to meet deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the Office of the Prime Minister in Putrajaya on Tuesday regarding possible solutions for these invisible children, Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported.

Most of the children were born stateless as they had Malaysian fathers and migrant mothers from the Philippines or Indonesia who were not formally married.

Being marginalized by the community, these kids often grow up in poverty as they face difficulties being admitted to school and then trouble finding legitimate jobs because they lack a formal education. They are also not entitled to social security, insurance coverage, a provident fund system or company retirement allowance – but live in constant fear of arrest and detention.

Lee said he expected a long fight and it had taken him three years to gather the records of undocumented children in the state, which is on the northern part of Borneo island. He sincerely hoped that the government would review the material and consider recognizing the children’s status and rights.

United Nations bodies such as the UNHCR and many NGOs have been active in ASEAN nations in recent years to try to limit statelessness because of the huge impact it has on people’s lives.