SHE was dressed in a purplish baju kurung and a shocking green headscarf. On her face, a layer of grease had formed over her slightly dark skin – a result of her day's activities.
While others of her age are at school, Azizah Yunus, 13, wanders around town with her two younger siblings.
“How to go to school? We don't have birth certificates,” she said in fluent Malay, when asked why she had been loitering from 11am until well past midnight on a school day.
Immigration enforcement officers had allegedly seen the three begging in Jalan Masjid India, Kampung Baru and Bangsar.
They were among 52 people rounded up in a recent joint raid on suspected beggars, homeless people, drug addicts and illegal immigrants carried out by City Hall, police, Federal Territory Social Welfare Department, Narcotics Department, Immigration Department and National Registration Department.
Such raids are done some seven times a month and doubled when there is an international event in town, such as the just-concluded Non-Aligned Movement Summit.
Officials believe Azizah, her brother Alias,10, and their three-year-old sister, Fatimah are part of a begging syndicate.
They were spotted by a team of 30 officials hiding behind a post near a bus stop at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman at the unearthly hour of 1.30am.
Azizah gave very few clues about her activities. Asked who she was waiting for, she said: “We are waiting for a cab. We want to go back to my house near Pasar Borong in Selayang.”
The elder girl held her sister's hand tightly when she got into an enforcement truck. Tears were streaming down her face as she joined several male beggars and drug addicts.
At the City Hall directorate in Jalan Pahang, where she was made to squat down with the other detainees, an officer asked why she was begging.
“I swear I do not do that. I was just bringing my brother and sister to town to watch a cultural show in Jalan Bukit Bintang,” she claimed.
Asked how she got hold of more than RM30 – mostly in RM1 denominations – in her purse, she kept mum.
Later, she said her mother, whom she claimed was working in a restaurant in Bukit Bintang, had brought her to Malaysia from Thailand when she was just 11 months old.
“My brother and sister were born here. They, too, do not have birth certificates,” she said. At 3.30am, immigration officers took them away in another truck.
City Hall enforcement director Mohd Rais Mohd Rashid said the immigration and welfare departments would try to find out where the children came from.
“If they are illegal immigrants they will be sent back to their home country. If they are Malaysians, the court will decide whether they need to be sent to a children's home.
Beggars and homeless people can be detained and sent to a rehabilitation home by a magistrate for three years.
“Those who do outright begging and sleep in public places are considered vagrants,'' said the official, adding that if children are caught the Child Act 2001would be used to send them to a children's home until the age of 18.
(Note: The names of the children have been changed to protect their identities)
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