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Improvements in dealing with boatpeople have yet to be introduced

Boatpeople Season Begins, Minus Strategy

Monday, October 12, 2015
PHUKET: With the imminent commencement of the ''sailing season,'' more refugees and migrants are expected to depart on perilous journeys from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Over the past few years, the world has witnessed the suffering and violence that people on these journeys have endured at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

At this crucial time, we recall the obligation of governments to rescue and protect refugees and migrants stranded at sea.

On May 21, during a trinational meeting between Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to allow people then stranded on boats at sea to disembark in their respective countries.

Subsequently, on May 29, 2015 the Royal Thai Government hosted an intergovernmental Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean.

APRRN commends the Royal Thai Government and other governments in the region for taking a step towards addressing the issue of migrants and refugees by hosting this meeting.

Civil society regards this meeting as a promising first step by governments within the Asia Pacific region towards developing long-term, sustainable and durable solutions to address movements by sea for those escaping poverty and/or persecution.

As was publicised after these meetings, civil society is pleased that governments have acknowledged the need to intensify search and rescue operations to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees at sea.

However, the pledges made on May 29 are not longstanding commitments but were rather a one-time offer.

Additionally, the exploration of disembarkation options and reception arrangements has encouraged civil society that government officials are taking initial steps towards the sustained protection of rescued persons.

Despite such positive commitments by states, civil society is disappointed in not only the weak initial commitments, but also the inadequacy of tangible actions undertaken by governments in the four months following the meeting in May.

Refugees, including women and children, are still being detained in Malaysia and Thailand in woefully overcrowded and inhumane conditions.

There is also concern over the fact that a taskforce to respond to the movement of refugees and migrants in the region, promised at the Asean Ministerial Emergency Meeting on Transnational Crime Concerning Irregular Movement of Persons in Southeast Asia on July 2, 2015, is yet to be established.

Furthermore, the meeting on May 29 did not adequately address the ongoing persecution of the stateless Rohingya in Myanmar, nor the root causes of their discrimination.

Their persecution has continued unabated for many decades with sectarian violence against the Rohingya being met with impunity.

Sectarian violence in 2012 resulted in more than 130,000 people confined and segregated to IDP camps with limited humanitarian assistance and livelihoods.

Disenfranchisement among the Rohingya community has only continued to increase with the cancellation of the ''Temporary Registration Certificates'' on March 31, 2015 denying them the right to vote and the disqualification of Rohingya candidates in the coming national elections.

States must address the root causes of movements at sea, otherwise the Rohingya will continue to flee from Myanmar and Bangladesh in search of safety and dignity.

All states have an obligation to protect people in the region in need of assistance, regardless of their mode of transportation.

APRRN strongly urges all states within the region to:

1. Ensure that people on boats are allowed to disembark at shore and are not pushed back to sea;

2. Strengthen search and rescue operations in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal;

3. Ensure a robust screening mechanism to identify people with protection needs;

4. Provide people rescued at sea with immediate access to humanitarian assistance, especially vulnerable women and children;

5. Immediately cease detaining people with protection concerns and explore options for alternatives to detention;

6. Provide people in need of protection with access to fair and robust asylum procedures;

7. Continue to actively develop regional and national solutions that address the root causes of refugee and migrant outflows.

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is an open and growing network consisting of more than 200 civil society organisations and individuals from 26 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific Region. We do this through information sharing, mutual capacity building, and joint advocacy. APRRN members are diverse, including service providers, human rights advocacy groups, research institutions, law firms providing pro-bono legal aid, refugee community-based organisations and refugees themselves. Almost all APRRN members are civil society groups working in their specific local contexts, lobbying their governments for changes in policies and legislation to protect the rights of refugees.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


There must a reason why no country wants these people, even their place of birth.

Posted by Hi on October 13, 2015 03:34

Editor Comment:

Self-interest, irrational fear, racism, intolerance, unreasonable hatred. Take your pick.


Ed, you have to look at what these people bring. Are they hardworking, educated, DO THEY INTEGRATE, have specialist skills, you are Australian which probably has the toughest policy for immigration in the word, probably an inferiority complex from convict days but the average person seems happy there when I lived on the East Coast. I suspect these people do not learn new languages, are not open minded about integration and lazy. Some exceptions but the whole world can't be wrong.

Posted by Hmm on October 13, 2015 22:43

Editor Comment:

Australia has taken wave after wave of migrants from all over the world and only stopped fairly recently when politicians lost the plot and started giving voters what they wanted rather than what they (ie the country) needed and deserved. The simple fact is that all refugees are driven to gain a better life in ways that prosperous, selfish people are not. Australia is a far better place having opened its doors to wave after wave of refugees from the world's troublespots. The only reason it has stopped is because the politicians making the judgements today are small-minded and not capable of seeing beyond their noses. Refugees are the most willing workers everywhere, Hmmm. Usually, given 30 years and a generation and a half, they are as integrated into a culture as anyone else. Australia wouldn't have any culture at all if it wasn't for immigrants. White Australia's reluctance to absorb the indigenous culture in the way that New Zealand has is an indication of the underlying racism. It's sad that selfishness and an obscene obsession with property prices are the key characteristics of too many Australians today. Taking in refugees should be resumed as soon as possible, before the hearts and souls of Aussies shrivel and turn to prunes.

By taking a ''what's in it for us'' approach, Hmmm, some people show they already have the shrivel virus. Refugees are people who desperately need help. Nothing more needs to be said.


politicians in Australia do what the voters want not reporters, and aussie voters are quite happy to accept genuine refugees who are approved and do not want people who pay smugglers to sneak them into Australia, Quite often paying substantial amounts of money, these same people do not qualify as genuine refugees, they just want a better lifestyle which is paid for by Australian tax payers not politicians

Posted by Peter Allen on October 14, 2015 10:14

Editor Comment:

You are naive, Peter. Politicians in Australia do whatever sustains them in power. Most of them are not the slightest concerned about humanist principles or Australia's real needs. Both sides of politics have made Australia a pariah in the international community by turning back boatloads of genuine refugees rather than taking them in. The politics of Pauline Hanson have never been acceptable but they have been adopted in a once-tolerant and generous country by bigotry that encourages the idea that ''these people are going to take your jobs and lower the value of your property.'' Tax payers must be delighted to have politicians give so much to Nauru, Cambodia and soon the Philippines to prevent Aussies fulfilling a simple social obligation: to open the door to those in real need. The problem is, Peter, Australia's approach doesn't give people the chance to prove they are ''genuine refugees'' or not. It treats them all as the enemy. it's yet another chapter of shame in a country with too many shameful chapters already. Massacre the blacks, massacre the Chinese, keep Australia white. The evils keep on coming.

I suggest you read a very revealing article by Amos Roberts in The Guardian. The headline reads: Being Australian gave me street cred at a neo-Nazi rally in Germany

''Seeing yourself through others' eyes can be galling. It's disturbing to discover that the political centre in multicultural Australia, at least when it comes to irregular immigration, is not so different from the extreme right of the political spectrum in Germany.''

Welcome to Australia, where we greet refugees with open arms and hot drinks. Oh wait, that's Austria.


Genuine refugees do not throw all their documents away and pay people smugglers to sneak them into any country not only Australia
I have met plenty of so called refugees from eastern europe and other areas who still live on social security and have living in Australia for a long time who actually qualified as refugees, the genuine refugees got of social security payments a long time ago and support the Australian Economy by paying taxes not living of them

Posted by Peter Allen on October 14, 2015 11:25

Editor Comment:

No doubt the system has been beaten in the past but it's up to Australian authorities to do what every other sensible government does and sort the genuine applicants from the non-genuine. The Rohingya don't have documents to throw away - they are stateless and have none. Moral values have seeped away Down Under, combined with lacklustre leadership. Selfishness wins everyone's vote. The answer would be to make voting non-compulsory. Then the people who care would win.

Monday September 25, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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