Pressure builds on Asian nations over migrant crisis

Philippines offers assistance to thousands of Rohingya migrants fleeing persecution. UN repeats call for help from South Asian countries

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

As the Rohingya migrant crisis continues, pressure on South Asian countries which are refusing to allow the migrants from reaching their lands is getting stronger.

United Nations agencies once again on Tuesday urged Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to rescue migrants who are adrift in boats, and the Philippines has voiced its willingness to accept some Rohingya migrants as a response to pleas from the UN.

Despite this rare positive statement from Manila other South Asian countries are reluctant to let thousands of desperate migrants, including women and children, from landing. The UN refugee agency estimates that around two thousand migrants have been stuck at sea for more than 40 days.

Seven of the migrants were rescued near the coast of Myanmar after they were thrown from a vessel going to Malaysia on Monday. They said their boat was packed with Rohingya migrants.

The whereabouts of around 300 others' is unknown, as their boat was towed to international waters by the Thai army two days ago.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UNHCR, and the UN human rights office have issued a joint statement calling for help for the people being bounced between waters off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, urging those governments to "provide for effective, predictable disembarkation to a place of safety with adequate and humane reception conditions."  

The agencies also noted Myanmar's discrimination against Rohingya Muslims, saying the crisis would not end until the persecution stops.

The UNHCR has warned that thousands of people who have returned to Myanmar face punishment.

While other nations continue reject more migrants, despite growing international pressure, the Philippine government has offered them sanctuary.

Senator Paolo Aquino, a cousin and political ally of President Benigno Aquino, said “Let us not fall short of providing humanitarian relief and assistance that is asked of us, as we pride ourselves to be a compassionate and hospitable people,”  Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday.

Thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship, have fled violence and poverty in Myanmar since 2012 following attacks by Buddhist mobs. Most travel in boats to Thailand, where they are often held by traffickers in jungle camps until a ransom is paid.

Thousands are being held in the Malacca Straits, unable to make it to the land because of strict precautions against trafficking networks in Thailand where the police have recently discovered two mass graves of victims of human traffickers.

TRTWorld and agencies