This content is not available in your region

UN urges South East Asian countries to do more for migrants at sea

Access to the comments Comments
By Joanna Gill  with AFP, Reuters, UNHCR, IOM, Human Rights Watch
UN urges South East Asian countries to do more for migrants at sea

Hundreds of boatpeople have been rescued off the coast of Indonesia after being stranded at sea for more than 40 days. Myanmar is said to have offered humanitarian assistance.

Around 4,000 men, women and children from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been adrift with dwindling supplies.

The rescue comes after international condemnation of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for preventing migrants from reaching land.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the UNHCR in Geneva spoke of the “record high number of people forcibly displaced globally” adding that, “consequently a record high number of people (are) also making sea crossings, a large number of migrants. Very much the focus does have to be exactly on that, saving lives and having proper measures in place to deal with people on disembarkation and other points and other points along their journeys.”

Many of those stranded had left Myanmar, rights groups say Rohingya Muslims have no choice but to flee persecution but several hundred have returned to Rakhine state after paying smugglers up to 200 euros for re-entry.

Malaysia hasbeen blocking its northwestern sea border, Thailand has escorted boats out of their territorial waters while Indonesian fishermen report they have been told not to pick anyone up, a situation described by Human Rights Watch as a three-way game of human ping-pong.

Bangladesh has said it will strengthen its coastguard operations to stop human trafficking on its shores in response to the migrant crisis. Earlier this month, a Bangladesh coastguard and navy team rescued more than 100 migrants bound for Malaysia after their boat was abandoned by the crew in the Bay of Bengal.