Kidnapped five-year-old saved from a life begging on KL streets The abduction and subsequent rescue of a five-year old Malay boy has opened a window into the sad and forgotten world of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, with many women and children begging to survive. About 15,000 Rohingyas live in Malaysia without access to social services because the country refuses to recognise them as refugees. 'We are shocked that stateless people like the Rohingya are left in a limbo,' lawyer Malayalam Manogaran said, echoing the sentiments of many Malaysians. 'We should show more kindness and recognise them as refugees. We can't continue to treat them like animals.' Nazrin Ghazali, or 'Yin', was abducted late last month while shopping with his parents. The media jumped on the case, publishing Yin's photograph, offering rewards and putting up missing posters all over Kuala Lumpur. After a tip-off, police on Sunday rescued Yin from a Rohingya couple who were hiding him in a state of semi-starvation at a squatter colony on the edge of the capital. Police said the couple, now in detention facing kidnapping charges, had put Yin on the streets to beg with their five children. Many Malaysians were shocked to learn that Rohingya children regularly beg on the streets to survive. And the media has now taken up the broader issue, highlighting how the Rohingya journey overland for weeks hoping for a new life in Malaysia, but end up in abject conditions. Although the country is host to about 3 million foreign workers - legal and illegal - Rohingyas are treated as illegal immigrants and are not permitted to work. The Rohingyas are Muslims and are persecuted by Myanmar's army. Many have fled to Malaysia via Thailand since the late 1980s. 'They were attracted to Malaysia because it is a Muslim country, had plentiful jobs and practised an ambivalent policy to Muslims escaping persecution,' said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of SUARAM, a human rights NGO. 'They only found arrest and constant harassment.' At the border, they enter illegally, often bribing their way through. 'I leave for work each day without knowing whether I will return or end up in a detention camp,' said 38-year-old Jaafar Hussein, who has been arrested, fined and released 17 times since 1996. 'We can't work, we can't migrate to third countries, we can't return to our home. We are stuck here,' said Mr Hussein, who works with local NGOs pressuring the government to grant refugee status to Rohingyas. Unlike Acehnese and Sri Lankan Muslims, who are recognised by the government as refugees, Rohingyas are considered economic migrants. If charged as illegal immigrants, they face fines of M$30,000 (HK$68,600), five years in jail and six strokes of the whip. The Rohingyas plight is created by Yangon, which refuses to recognise them as citizens or take them back if deported. 'Rohingyas have no passports and no identification documents issued by a state that offers legal status,' Mr Yap said. 'We have nothing - no identity papers, no travel documents, no passports, we are totally helpless,' Mr Hussein said. The UNHCR has issued Rohingyas with documents that state the holder is a 'person of concern to the UNHCR' or that the person 'is registered with the UNHRC'. But the government does not recognise the documents as valid. 'The Rohingyas are stuck in a vicious loop,' a UNHCR spokesman in Kuala Lumpur said yesterday. 'We have been negotiating for a long time with the government to grant recognition.' At the core of the problem is Malaysia's refusal to recognise and ratify the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees that grants displaced people rights, protection, shelter and asylum. The government fears if the convention is ratified, the country will be flooded with economic migrants claiming refugee status. 'All our lives we are running, hiding and living like animals,' Mr Hussein said. 'At least let us work so our children don't have to beg.'