A RECENTLY convened track-two diplomatic forum is calling on Asean leaders to tackle the issue of forced migration, just as civil unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the cross-border problem and more refugees are ending up on Indonesian shores.
South-East Asia continues to have “deficits of leadership and accountability” when it comes to providing an adequate response to the forced migration issue, which requires Asean leaders to prioritise migrants’ protection, said Travers McLeod, co-convenor of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADMF).
The ADFM has issued a report outlining the challenges representing likely drivers of forced migration in the wider Indo-Pacific region, based on a forum meeting in May that looked into aspects such as instability in Myanmar and the pandemic’s impact on migration.
The report, published last Friday, said “renewed political instability and civil conflicts are creating new waves of potential forced migrants”.
The assessment came amid new waves of Rohingya refugee arrivals in Aceh province on Indonesia’s northwestern coast recently.
Many of them have resorted to perilous sea journeys to escape refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Some one million Rohingya live in cramped camps in Bangladesh, where human traffickers run lucrative operations promising to find them sanctuary abroad, including in Indonesia.
They fled Myanmar to escape a military crackdown against them four years ago, which United Nations investigators said amounted to genocide.
Such examples of forced migration are further complicated by fresh unrest in Myanmar and the border closures that come with the pandemic, the ADFM has found.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the democratically elected government in February.
Protests against the junta have been met with violent repression that has killed hundreds of people.
In late March, 4,000 civilians fled the border regions of Myanmar’s Karen state into neighbouring Thailand in an attempt to escape the Myanmar army’s attacks, according to the Karen Women’s Organisation.
McLeod, who is also the CEO of the Centre for Policy Development, said innocent lives were lost as Asean leaders weren’t doing enough to mitigate the potential disaster.
The ADFM report stated that one possible solution to address forced migration is to utilise existing early warning systems and networks in the region. — The Jakarta Post/ANN