World Refugee Day marked with call for ASEAN and international community not to turn away migrants
Myanmar navy personnel escort Rohingya Muslims back to their camp in Sittwe in Rakhine State after they were caught fleeing on a boat in November 2018. They paid hundreds of dollars to try to escape squalid Myanmar camps by boat. (Photo: AFP)
Amnesty International Indonesia and the country’s representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) have called on countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia, to do more to protect Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar.
The appeal was issued as part of efforts to mark World Refugee Day on June 20 and followed a statement by Amnesty two days earlier that claimed the Malaysian government intended to push a boat with 269 detained Rohingya refugees on board back out to sea.
According to Amnesty International, at least 800 refugees are currently making perilous sea journeys in search of a better life.
“We call on these governments to protect the Rohingya and immediately implement the Bali Process to hold forums on the Rohingya crisis,” Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said on June 20.
The Bali Process was an international forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia in Bali in 2002 to raise regional awareness on people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime.
The declaration of the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in 2016 called for measures that would contribute to comprehensive long-term strategies addressing these crimes as well as by providing migrants with “safe, legal and affordable migration pathways.”
“We urge the Indonesian government to communicate and cooperate actively with various parties, particularly ASEAN, to find a solution to save and distribute aid to Rohingya refugees at sea,” Hamid said.
The Rohingya humanitarian crises cannot be settled overnight, “hence, the international community must work together to ensure that the rights of the refugees are protected,” he said.
He called on Indonesia to take the lead in ASEAN efforts to resolve the Rohingya crisis. “We appeal to all countries not to reject or prevent Rohingya boats from docking,” he told UCA News.
Hamid said the Rohingya have the right to seek asylum as stipulated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and in regional conventions.
Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesia’s representative on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, reminded the regional bloc’s member states of their international human rights obligation to protect those forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and persecution.
“The basic rights of the Rohingya on citizenship, justice and livelihood must be fulfilled. They must not be left at sea,” she told UCA News.
More than a million people have fled persecution and violence in Myanmar in recent years, according to rights groups and the United Nations. Many have died while trying to flee on boats that sank or after being left stranded on vessels by people smugglers.
There are about 79.5 million refugees across the world, including more than 500,000 in ASEAN countries, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency.
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