Refugees fleeing poverty and persecution in their home countries by boat are being turned away from landing on other countries. This is the plight of so-called ‘boat people’ in the waters of Southeast Asia, reportedly comprised of poor Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims fleeing the predominantly Buddhist country, Myanmar, where they are not considered citizens. Thousands of people are said to be drifting – and dying – at sea in inhumane conditions, rejected from going on shore by Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Rohingya have been described by the United Nations as one amongst the most persecuted peoples of the world. Many of those striving to reach refuge on foreign shores are stateless Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh. By some estimates, in the first months of 2015 alone, about 25,000 poor Bangladeshis and Rohingya migrants have gone on smugglers’ boats in hopes of a better life in foreign shores. A tougher stance on human trafficking in Thailand, however, triggered an uptick in arrivals to neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia too – countries that have also been wary of taking in the new arrivals.
There have been reports of navies refusing loaded migrant boats from reaching shore, and of boats being turned away and even being pushed back out to sea to uncertain fates. Many migrants have reportedly died of drowning, starvation and sickness as they drift aimlessly, abandoned by the smugglers who have arranged for their passage.
The three nations concerned have since been in coordination on a proper course of action. Indonesia and Malaysia have decided to give the migrants temporary shelter of up to one year, and Malaysia is now actively involved in search and rescue in areas of their responsibility. It is said that over 3,000 refugees could still be drifting at sea.
International pressure has also been focused on Myanmar to address the root of the problem – the persecution of the Rohingya.
Like Europe’s Migration Crisis, this issue prompts us all to ask very important questions about humanitarian aid in modern times. How much should foreign governments like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia be responsible for the influx of irregular migrants literally dying to reach their shores? Controlling the border and simply keeping the migrants out, irrespective of the fate that awaits them on the open seas seems inhuman, and yet how much should these nations be expected to do search and rescue, on top of accepting, processing and looking after the migrants who do reach their shores? Can national economies sustain the financial burdens associated with these tasks? And because Asia’s waterways are among the busiest in the planet, sooner or later, commercial operators may also have to ask themselves similar questions posed to national coast guards and navies – how much assistance can and should be given to hundreds of people struggling at sea?
Kemplon Engineering, as a provider of engineering services to the maritime community since 2005, is concerned with this important issue. Like the maritime industry we so proudly serve, we have a great love and respect for our seas. The world’s waters have witnessed humanity at its best and worst. It has seen our engineering marvels, spirit of exploration and adventure, and heroism. It has, unfortunately, also seen us in war, environmental exploitation, tragedy and desperation. It is our sincere hope that this crisis brings out the best in all of us, instead – cooperation among governments, inventive solutions, and compassion for each other.
Check our blog (http://kemplon.com/blog/) regularly for updates on this and other important sea migration issues, and other news relevant to the maritime industry. To learn more about Kemplon and our marine and industrial engineering services, click here: http://kemplon.com/about-us/. You may also reach us at email@example.com, or by phone at (877) 522-6526.
^ “Abandoned Migrants Pleads for Help.” The Maritime Executive, 14 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/abandoned-migrants-pleads-for-help
^ Gecker, Jocelyn. “Rohingya migrant crisis eases, but hard questions remain.” Salon, 21 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.salon.com/2015/05/21/rohingya_migrant_crisis_eases_but_hard_questions_remain/
^ Gordts, Eline. “Why Rohingyas Are Willing To Risk Everything To Flee Myanmar.” The Huffington Post, 22 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/22/myanmar-rohingya_n_7342300.html
^ “Myanmar Argues Cause of Rohingya Crisis.” The Maritime executive, 22 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/myanmar-argues-cause-of-rohingya-crisis
^ “South-east Asia migrant crisis: Burma faces blame over influx of boat people.” The Guardian, 17 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/17/south-east-asia-migrant-crisis-burma-faces-blame-over-influx-of-boat-people
^ Tran, Clara. “South-East Asian migrant crisis: Who are the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar by boat?” ABC.net.au, 21 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-21/explainer-who-are-the-rohingya-fleeing-myanmar/6487130