05/13/2015, 00.00
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Migrant crisis: Kuala Lumpur joins Jakarta in push backs

The Malaysian government intends to push back irregular migrants (Bangladeshis and Rohingya) caught in territorial waters to sea. For fear of arrest, the smugglers abandon thousands of desperate people to their fate. Increase in landing attempts expected in coming days.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Following in the footsteps of Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur will also adopt the push-back policy towards irregular migrants - Bangladesh workers and Rohingya refugees, a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar - caught in territorial waters.

The Malaysian government confirmed that it will ferry barges laden with desperate souls offshore, unless there is an "imminent" risk sinking. Tan Kok Kwee, First Admiral of the Coast Guard, said that "the policy is to escort them out of the waters of Malaysia, after providing the necessary assistance".

Abandoned in the open sea, it would appear that there is no nation willing to accept the thousands of Bangladeshis and Rohingya and guarantee their rights and dignity; traffickers for fear of being arrested, abandon the boats regardless of the fate of the men, women but also children and the elderly.

Even today there are thousands of refugees sailing without a definite goal in the Straits of Malacca and in the surrounding waters; some of them have been in the open sea for over two months and are in desperate conditions. Some activists say that in the coming days and in the coming weeks there will be many other attempts at landings on the coasts of Indonesia and Malaysia. However, governments in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have confirmed the crackdown and policy of no welcome or  asylum for migrants and refugees.

The Malaysian navy has begun round the clock patrols of the waters surrounding the archipelago of Langkawi, on whose shores they found over 1,100 refugees over the past three days. Of these, 486 were Rohingya and other 682 citizens of Bangladesh. 993 were men, 104 women and 61 children.

For now, the survivors are housed in two shelters, one for men and the second for women and children. However, they will be transferred to a detention center on the mainland, while waiting to see what their fate will be. Among these there is also a Rohingya of only 15 years old, he fled Myanmar because orphaned and without hope for the future; the boy paid $ 200 for this journey of despair. Now he asks worried: "Will they send me back?".

The migrant crisis in the Asia-Pacific waters is worrying human rights associations and activists, who demand reception policies and aid for desperate people, often fleeing persecution and violence. Yesterday, the international community appealed to the governments of South-East Asia, calling for "regional" action to retrieve and rescue these boats laden with people in despair.

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 trafficking crossroads - on trade in human lives, after the discovery of a mass grave near the border with Malaysia in which dozens of Rohingya corpses were buried.

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