Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images Thousands stranded at sea in Southeast Asia - act now to ensure their protection
Up to 6,000 people from Myanmar and Bangladesh remain stranded at sea in dire circumstances and at risk of death while Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities defy international human rights law and their duty to protect. Many have been on boats in harrowing conditions for more than two months and are in desperate need of food, water and medical care. Malaysian authorities have said that they would push back boats and deport migrants and refugees. Last week, Indonesian authorities turned away a boat carrying around 400 people. Thai authorities have said that with humanitarian exceptions for the sick, vulnerable and victims of trafficking, they will not allow boats to land. More than 2,000 people have already arrived in Indonesia and Malaysia, with some being detained on arrival.
The thousands who have fled Myanmar and Bangladesh include migrants, refugees such as the Muslim Rohingya fleeing discrimination and dire humanitarian conditions, and victims of human trafficking. Refusing to rescue or pushing back the boats may be tantamount to a death sentence. Reports from UNHCR suggest that this unfolding humanitarian crisis has seen at least 300 people die on boats so far in 2015. Sign our petition to call on the Malaysian Prime Minister, currently chairing ASEAN, to stop the humanitarian crisis and protect refugees and asylum seekers in Southeast Asia Dear Prime Minister, Over the last week, more than 2,000 refugees and migrants including men, women and children from Myanmar and Bangladesh have arrived in Malaysia and Indonesia after spending up to three months at sea. It is believed that up to a further 6,000 people remain stranded at sea and Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities have pushed back boats from their borders.
The refugees include the persecuted Rohingya minority fleeing discrimination and dire conditions in Myanmar. Regardless of their legal status, their means of arrival or where they come from, the rights of these people must be protected. People should not be detained, prosecuted or otherwise punished solely because of their method of arrival. All countries must abide by principles enshrined in customary international law including the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the transfer of anyone to a place where his or her life or freedom would be at risk.
The 1982 UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea includes the duty to establish search and rescue operations. As the chair of ASEAN we ask that you work alongside countries in the region to: Immediately carry out search and rescue operations; Allow all boats carrying asylum seekers and migrants to land safely; Provide for immediate humanitarian needs including food, water, shelter and health care; Ensure that people are able to claim asylum, are not transferred to where their lives or freedoms are at risk, and are not punished solely for their method of arrival in the country; Call on the government of Myanmar to immediately stop the systematic persecution of the Rohingya minority. Yours sincerely
Publish Date: Jul 3, 2015