Blooming business for refugees

Blooming business for refugees

PETALING JAYA - It is a spot well known for its nightlife, where adults spend their time consuming alcohol and dancing the night away.

But among the well-dressed men and women out to have a night of fun and laughter, it is not uncommon to see little children making their way along Jalan Changkat.

They sell roses till the clubs close and the last of the customers leave.

"Please buy one," said a little girl to The Star Online reporter, with a sweet smile and an innocent look.

When asked how much a bouquet of flowers cost, the child said that it was RM10.

When questioned further, the girl who only wanted to be known as Siti, said that she was a Roghinya refugee and sold flowers to help her family make ends meet.

"My father does not have a proper job, so I sell flowers with my sisters and brothers," said the nine-year-old in fluent Malay.

Claiming that her mother was selling flowers in Bukit Bintang, Siti said that the money that her siblings and she earned was what kept the family going.

"Our mother will come to pick us up later. We are not afraid here because we have friends and the people who work here look out for us," Siti said when asked if was safe to be working so late at night.

The girl also claimed that she went to a school in Ampang during the day. "It is tiring but we do not have a choice," she said.

The children stayed on Jalan Changkat till about 3 am and disappeared into the night after all the clubs closed.

All the children there seemed to be friendly and willing to answer any questions thrown at them, although the answers seemed rehearsed and similar.

There were at least 12 children at the spot on the day our team was there, and none of them were above the age of 13.

What happens to the children when they hit puberty and no longer attract the same kind of sympathy?

Another child, who said that her name was Ruby. was very friendly and talkative until she noticed a reporter using a phone with the back camera lens facing her.

"Are you taking a picture? Please delete it," said the feisty 11-year-old before walking away.

Later the night, the same girl scolded the reporter for being at a convenience store, where a gray Wira picked her and some of the other children up after their 'shift'. "Can you please get out and stop following us!"she yelled.

With them was a woman, who earlier had claimed to be the children's mother.

"We are refugees. We can't get proper jobs so I do not have a choice but to make my children do these kind of jobs," she said.

The woman even showed a United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) card declaring her as a refugee.

"All my children were born here. My eldest daughter is already 15 years old but we are just refugees. We can not get proper jobs to support ourselves," she said.

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