Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rohingya Boat People : A Long Way To Go

On May 19, I wrote on my Facebook status this..

I said that Malaysia must allow the Rohingyas who were adrift at sea and had reached Langkawi on May 10 to land for refuge and shelter. It was not an option because pushing them away would mean that they would perish at sea.
So, okay.. I said a lot of things including that Malaysia had experience in handling refugees - the Vietnamese boat people who were here in transit camps before they were all resettled in third countries. We also had the Bosnians who were also later returned to their country after the conflict.

I also said that Malaysia and ASEAN must pressure the world to make Myanmar accountable and responsible for this humanitarian crisis that they have caused.
Myanmar is a disgrace. Their government must take back the Rohingyas. They must be compelled, be forced to take back the Rohingyas.
It is their burden to bear.
The next day, May 20, I was heartened to know that Malaysia was offering the Rohingyas temporary shelter.
Foreign  Minister Datuk Seri Anifah announced that this was the stand of Malaysia & Indonesia until resettlement & repatriation process was carried out within one year.
Meanwhile, the 2 countries will provide humanitarian assistance to the 7,000 migrants still at sea, he added.
He would be meeting Myanmar Foreign Minister soon to seek a solution to this in the spirit of ASEAN.
Anifah also said that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are urging the international community to share the responsibility and burden of this humanitarian crisis.

It must be said that there, according to the UNHCR, as at the end of April this year, there are some 152,830 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNCHR in Malaysia.
Here's according to UNCHR:
- 141,920 are from Myanmar, comprising some 49,600 Chins, 45,910 Rohingyas, 12,320 Myanmar Muslims, 7,280 Rakhines & Arakanese, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

- There are some 10,910 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 3,890 Sri Lankans, 1,210 Pakistanis, 1,090 Somalis, 950 Syrians, 830 Iraqis, 540 Iranians, 430 Palestinians, and others from other countries.

Some 69% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, while 31% are women.

There are some 33,000 children below the age of 18.

There are some 7,000 Rohingyas  - declared non-citizens by both Myanmar and Bangadesh -  who have fled persecution and poverty in Myanmar in overcrowded boats. More than 3,000 have reached Malaysian and Indonesian waters.
So, you can imagine this herculean problem that Malaysia has by allowing them to land. 

Let me say that while allowing the Rohingyas to land on our shores is the human and compassionate thing to do, it is going to be a huge problem.. Adding to the already huge problem that we have.

From now after the documentation and necessary processes, Malaysia will have to decide how the refugees are going to remain in the country. Where, what and how?

I do not agree that they should be immediately assimilated into society or that that should be the objective for now.

We need to wait for Myamar's reaction to this.

For now, security, medical&health and legal teams have to be deployed. 

It is no mean task to handle thousands of undocumented people, among whom are women and children, who are not in the best of health -- physically and mentally. 

Anifah said that this would all be done within a year. The prospect of a longer period is problematic. We must expect health problems, even increase in number due to new births. 

This is the reality.

There are crucial decisions to be made as to the location to place them but the government should move away from any plans to place them in detention centres.

In fact, if the government has had minimal ties with the UNCHR and NGOs on helping  refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, it should start now for everyone's benefit.

Provide health and education facilities for them. If Myanmar does not want them, perhaps other countries will take in skilled and healthy people. 

On May 14, 2015, the UNHCR issued this statement:

We have made a global call for legal alternatives to access protection and safety. We believe that nobody should have to put their lives into the hands of ruthless smugglers.

In South-east Asia, several thousand people are believed to be stranded on smugglers' boats in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, likely abandoned by their crews amid government crackdowns against traffickers.

We urge governments to facilitate disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open to prevent a humanitarian crisis at sea.

Once the humanitarian needs are met, agencies like UNHCR can support States to interview the different groups and target solutions to their specific needs, as those being rescued are likely to be a mix of refugees, economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children among those being smuggled.

The current situation highlights the urgent need for regional cooperation to address the challenge of irregular maritime movements. Through the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, UNHCR has been advocating for coordinated regional responses to search and rescue, disembarkation, needs identification and solutions

Meanwhile, here's hoping that ASEAN and the international community will put pressure on Mynamar for this humanitarian crisis. And fast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My hearts bleed for all refugees - whether inside their country or outside. But could Myanmar's claims that the Rohingya people are from Bangladesh and that they sneaked into Burma have any truth? I do not know. I know that India has built an expensive fence thousands of kilometres long to stop infiltration from Bangladesh. India is a poor country. But their estimates are that 20 million have already infiltrated into India where their compatriots provide - for a fee of course - false identity papers. Indian papers are not as sophisticated as Malaysian ones.

Having said that I agree we should all help our fellow Muslims come and settle in Malaysia. They can help clear the jungle and develop states like Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. These refugees are young and desperate. But they are muslims like us.They will vote BN once we give them citizenship. Win-win I call it.