Rohingya: Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should coordinate sea rescues

14 May 2015
Rohingya: Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should coordinate sea rescues
Fortify Rights demands protection for Rohingya boat people Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA

Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should immediately coordinate search and rescue operations for asylum seekers and possible survivors of trafficking from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are stranded at sea, a statement from Fortify Rights said today, 13 May 2015.
The governments of these three countries should open their borders to asylum seekers and provide survivors with access to asylum procedures, protection from detention and forced returns, and freedom of movement.
“This is a grave humanitarian crisis demanding an immediate response,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “Lives are on the line. Regional governments should act decisively to rescue and protect asylum seekers and trafficking survivors, not drive them back out to sea.”
Following the discovery of mass graves of more than 30 bodies in an abandoned human trafficking camp in Sadao District, Thailand, authorities arrested several suspected traffickers, including government officials. Thailand has also increased its border enforcement and redoubled its policy of pushing away ships of asylum seekers from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Some human traffickers have abandoned ships at sea, leaving thousands of people stranded. More than 2,500 Rohingya and Bangladeshis landed in Aceh, Indonesia and Langkawi, Malaysia this week after members of a transnational criminal syndicate abandoned ships.
Fortify Rights confirmed hundreds more people are adrift on deserted boats at sea and several thousand others may be following them. Several ships carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and systematic abuse in Myanmar reportedly departed Myanmar and Bangladesh in recent days and are destined for Thailand and Malaysia.
Governments in the region and the wider international community should commit financial and technical resources to facilitate a coordinated response to save lives and ensure protection for asylum seekers, survivors of human trafficking, and migrants, Fortify Rights said.