UN calls for comprehensive response to SE Asia sea migrant crisis

The UN today called for a "comprehensive response" to the large scale humanitarian crisis of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, of which nearly 2,000 are still believed to be stranded in the perilous sea across the Bay of Bengal.

Geneva: The UN today called for a "comprehensive response" to the large scale humanitarian crisis of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, of which nearly 2,000 are still believed to be stranded in the perilous sea across the Bay of Bengal.

"At the moment the priority should be saving those people who are at sea but in the long term, obviously, you have to address the root cause of the problem. This has to include efforts for reconciliation in Rakhine State where there have been ethnic clashes and also the issue of citizenship has to be addressed by the authorities in Myanmar," said William Spindler, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency.

"This requires full assumption of responsibility by Myanmar towards all people on its territory. Granting of citizenship is the ultimate goal. In the interim, a legal status for all habitual residents recognizing that Myanmar is their own country is urgently required.

Today, 17 countries including India, the US, Australia, Japan and regional countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Bangladesh are participating in a meeting in the Thai capital to thrash out a solution to the Indian Ocean migration crisis even as 2000 people are still believed to be stranded on the sea.

Some 88,000 Rohingyas and Bangladeshi fleeing persecution and poverty have risked their lives and limbs on rickety smuggling boats and more than 1,000 have died since 2014, the UNHCR stated.

The elaborate smuggling rings operating from around Bangladesh's Cox Bazaar and the Myanmar's Rakhine State across the Andaman Sea to Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia faced cracked down by the Thai authorities, which lead smugglers to leave the hapless migrants floating on the boats without food and water for days on end.

The situation was further aggravated when the regional governments started pushing these people back to the seas.

After initially refusing permission to land, Malaysia and Indonesia have now officially agreed to take in these desperate families, until they are resettled in a third country or sent back.

Two mass graves of these migrants have also been unearthed in Thailand and Malaysia.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 139 migrant graves have been found along a 50 kms stretch on the Thai-Malaysia border.

Rohingya Muslims are a minority group who have suffered persecution in Myanmar while the country's government has refused to acknowledge them as full-fledged citizens. 

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