More migrant boats coming as Malaysia turns them back

More boats carrying hundreds of people heading towards Malaysia, which has turned away two more boats despite calls for help

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Migrant crisis in Asia is getting much more serious as thousands of people, mostly long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, have landed to Indonesia and Malaysia in recent days, or pushed back to sea.

Thousands of more are stuck at sea, crammed in vessels, and heading toward Malaysia. But they are not wanted and turned back by Malaysian authorities, who say "they have been very nice, but no more."

About 2,000 hungry and desperate asylum seekers have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia this week, but the two countries announced on Tuesday that they will send any migrant boats back at sea, after they provide food and water to them.

An estimated 8,000 men, women and children are being stuck in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters. Activists say smugglers abandoned those ships after the discovery of mass migrant graves and a subsequent crackdown on human trafficking in Thailand.

Despite numerous calls from the United Nations and migrant agencies for help for the stranded, South Asian countries refuse to take those who are effectively stateless and have nowhere to go.

Rohingya Muslims denied citizenship by the Buddhist-majority in Myanmar and escape from discrimination, violence and camps that they were forced to live in apartheid-like conditions. They are not recognized as refugees in Bangladesh either, and are denied from getting aid from international agencies.

In the last three years, more than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to other countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Malaysian officials said they have turned away at least three boats carrying about 1,100 migrants in last two days. Indonesia prevented two migrant boats from coming to its shores.

Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar responded to criticisms saying "Their country is not at war. If there is nothing wrong with the ship, they should sail back to their own country," adding UN should find another country for the Rohingyas.

Malaysia has not signed international conventions on refugees, and hosts 45,000 Rohingya migrants.

Thailand is to hold an emergency meeting later this month in Bangkok to discuss the growing crisis in the region. In addition to representatives from South Asian countries, the US and Australia are expected to attend.

TRTWorld and agencies