Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The international community has launched an appeal to the governments of Southeast Asia, instructing them to rescue the thousands of irregular migrants adrift in the open sea, without water and food.
According to human rights activists and groups, these refugees are likely to die if immediate steps are not taken for their care and rescue. However, the Indonesian government seems deaf to the appeals and is opting for the push-back policy: this morning a boat load of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar (Rohingya) and Bangladesh were towed off the coast. At the moment their future destination is unknown.
The boat arrived yesterday off the coast of Aceh, carrying at least 400 migrants, the latest in a long line of overcrowded migrant boats attempting to land on the beaches of Indonesia and Malaysia. They are carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar to escape persecution, along with citizens of Bangladesh who emigrate in search of a job.
According to a survey published recently by The Daily Star newspaper in Dhaka, in recent years about 250 thousand men and women were lured by the prospect of a job and then forced into slavery or victims of trafficking in human lives.
Jakarta recently, in line with the other governments in the region, adopted a push back policy; Indonesian authorities refueled the ship loaded with migrants, transported it beyond the territorial waters and abandoned it at sea. A government official confirmed that "we gave them fuel and we told him to move on. We do not oblige them to go to Malaysia or Australia. This is not our business. We do not want them to land in Indonesia, because this is not their destination. "
The migrants crisis in the Mediterranean like in the territories of Asia-Pacific, worries associations and human rights activists, who demand reception policies and aid to desperate people, often fleeing persecution and violence. In recent days at least 2 thousand "boat people" from Myanmar and Bangladesh swam to shore, were rescued or intercepted off the Indonesian and Malaysian coast.
A crisis which has deepened with the crackdown imposed by Thailand – the real crossroads in trafficking - the trade in human lives, after the discovery of a mass grave near the border with Malaysia in which dozens of Rohingya corpses were buried.
From Bangkok Joe Lowry, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), calls for "an effort at regional level" among governments, which have a chance thanks to satellites and navy vessels to locate and rescue the desperate, over-crowded barges. If not rescued in time, many are likely to die of starvation on the open ocean. Traffickers, adds Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for refugees (UNHRC), keep the refugees at sea "for fear of landings." In some cases they have abandoned the ships to their fate, to avoid being arrested. The nations of the area, he concludes, must "unite" and find an "shared” response to the problem.