PETALING JAYA: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has welcomed Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand’s commitment to resolve the issue of migrants stranded in boats in the Bay of Bengal and the waters of South-East Asia.
It said this commitment was an important initial step in the search for solutions to the issue and vital to save thousands of lives.
“It is now urgent for people to be brought ashore without delay and that immediate first aid and other care be provided for all who are in need,” said UNHCR in a statement.
It agreed with the foreign ministers of the three countries that further action would be needed.
This includes addressing the root causes of the crisis and looking properly at the needs of those who require international protection.
“As with other regions of the world where we are seeing large movements of people by sea, countries in the region will need to work together for this to be addressed meaningfully and successfully.
“UNHCR itself is ready to work with countries in the region to find solutions to the plight of these people.
“This may include returning people to their home country voluntarily and once conditions allow.”
Meanwhile, the Bar Council commended the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia for their decision to provide temporary shelter to Rohingya migrants.
Its Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee chairman Datuk M. Ramachelvam said the move would help end the humanitarian crisis.
He said the Bar Council viewed those rescued as victims of human trafficking and smuggling who should be protected under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.
He said those responsible should face the full brunt of the law.
“The Bar Council reiterates its call for the Malaysian Government to engage with the office of the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur to put in place a system for receiving and registering this wave of boat people,” he said.
He said their claims for refugee status should be documented, and must be followed by either repatriation or resettlement.
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