Migrant Crisis Imminent In South East Asia –UN | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Migrant Crisis Imminent In South East Asia –UN

Posted: May 15, 2015 at 11:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

UNITED NATIONS (UN) has warned of humanitarian disaster after Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia turned back boatloads of refugees fleeing Burma, leaving 6,000 people stranded at sea.

Obscured by the uproar over migrant trafficking in the Mediterranean, the dire plight of tens of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants fleeing Burma and Bangladesh by sea had passed largely unremarked by western politicians and media.

Malaysia and Thailand turn away hundreds on migrant boats.

But, this week’s move by Malaysian patrol ships to turn back two boats carrying about 600 people, many in critical physical condition, and similarly unconscionable, coordinated actions by Thailand and Indonesia might shift attention to one of the world’s other big migration crises.

After a government decision to close Malaysian ports, officials confirmed on Thursday May 14, 2015 that the two refugee boats had been intercepted off Langkawi and Penang islands, on Malaysia’s western littoral, and forced back out to sea.

It was believed that one of these boats was later found drifting in Thai waters, where authorities had also made its occupants unwelcome.

According to a banner written in English, the boat mostly contained members of Burma’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

“About 10 people died during the journey. We threw their bodies into the water,” one migrant shouted in the Rohingya language, according to local reporters.

“We have been at sea for two months. We want to go to Malaysia.”

Many young children were among the weak-looking passengers on the boat. Aid workers estimate that up to 6,000 migrants may be at sea with nowhere to go, while the UN refugee agency said the deliberate refusal to help them and others could quickly lead to a “massive humanitarian disaster”.

Human rights groups said the migrants were at risk of starvation, dehydration and illness – and that their situation would only worsen, while irresponsible regional governments, eschewing search-and-rescue operations, tried instead to make them somebody’s else’s problem.