Bomborra Media
Malaysia's Refugee Crisis

Published on Nov 1, 2016 by Luke Hunt

Cover Image
The Indonesian-Malaysian border is often home for refugees who have settled here on Sebatik Island and are constantly on the move across the two countries. Malaysia on the left is separated from Indonesia on the right by a narrow creek which proves highly porous and difficult to secure. Luke Hunt travelled to border region on Borne for this report. Click here to view photo essay

Sebatik Island, just a kilometer from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, is home to thousands of illegal and U.N. recognized refugees. 

Children without U.N. or Malaysian papers recognizing their refugee status are denied access to schools and health facilities while their parents are forced to work illegally while Muslim girls recognized as refugees attend better schools on Gaya Island. There are up to four generations of Filipinos living around the Borneo coastline. 

Malaysian counter-terrorist forces on patrol in the Sulu Sea struggle to stem the flow of refugees fleeing decades of war in the southern Philippines for the relative safety of Borneo which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and the tiny sultanate of Brunei.

Estimates vary but most observers believe there are up to 2 million refugees and illegal immigrants living in water villages and squatter camps around the northern coastline of Borneo.