by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
After weeks of turning away boats ferrying hundreds of stranded migrants at sea, Indonesia and Malaysia offered temporary ‘resettlement and repatriation’ to 7,000 migrants.
The migrants are mostly Bangladeshis and Rohingya people, who fled religious persecution in Myanmar, in doubled numbers this year.
Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking sparked the influx of migrants, as trafficking routes and operations were disrupted. Over 3,000 migrants have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia, following Thailand’s refusal to allow the smuggling boats to dock.
“Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those 7,000 irregular migrants still at sea. We also agreed to offer them temporary shelter, provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.
Thailand later said it would no longer push back boats and would continue to provide humanitarian assistance. Despite this, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said the temporary shelters would not be set up in Thailand, a preferred transit point for migrants.
Last week, government and police officials visited an immigration office in Thailand’s southern province of Satun, a prominent trafficking area.
Locals in the area told officials they are aware of the human traffickers involved, but did not dare to reveal any names, due to the trafficking gangs’ fearful influence. A Thai general said on Sunday that 62 people have been found guilty for involvement in smuggling the Rohingya people of Myanmar, with 300 million baht confiscated.
The UN, which has been encouraging countries to take in the stranded migrants, welcomed the actions of the South East Asian countries.
Source: Reuters, Asia Vision