Malaysia launches search and rescue missions amid migrant crisisComments
Hundreds of Royhingya and Bangladeshi migrants are being housed in a temporary shelter in Indonesia, after being rescued off their rickety boat.
They were brought ashore on Wednesday, bringing the total number of “boat people” to land in Indonesia and Malaysia to around 3,000 in the past week.
One migrant, from Myanmar, said his group had been drifting in the ocean without fuel and was helped by the Thai navy.
“There were 400 people on (the) boat. No fuel and people coming,” said Muhammad Siraj.
He added that a helicopter would sometimes deliver rice and the Thai navy helped them.
Smugglers have abandoned ships full of migrants, many of them hungry and sick, following a crackdown on human trafficking in Thailand – the most common first destination for Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution.
While Bangkok has said that it will no longer tow boats back out to sea – and will allow the sick to come ashore – it has stopped short of saying whether others will be allowed to disembark.
Thailand is refusing to set up temporary shelters on its soil. For those who make it into the country illegally, officials say they will be locked up in detention centres.
Indonesia and Malaysia have said they will allow as many as seven thousand migrants at sea to come ashore temporarily – but no more.
Malaysia’s prime minister has ordered the navy to launch search and rescue missions for migrants drifting on boats.
But this alone will not solve the crisis. Thailand has called a regional conference for next week.