Refugees


Malaysia and Indonesia have vowed to turn back any boats carrying migrants that enter their waters, as the UN calls for “a massive international search and rescue operation” in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca.
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Thousands of people, both Muslim Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking jobs in Malaysia, have been abandoned at sea recently in Southeast Asia by smugglers fearing arrest as Thailand cracks down on human traffickers. At least 8,000 people are in peril, yet the Southeast Asian nations off whose shores they drift have been reluctant to save them.
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Several thousand civilians have returned to their villages in and near the Kokang region in recent weeks but a renewed offensive by government forces close to Myanmar’s border with China has prompted another exodus of refugees, the World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday.
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Irrawaddy Division police officers have arrested 14 ethnic Rohingya alongside 12 other people suspected of bringing them from a relief camp in the Arakan State capital of Sittwe to Thabaung Township.
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The number of smuggled migrants stranded on Malaysian and Indonesian shores continues to climb as boats are abandoned or forced to reroute amid Thailand’s latest crackdown on the human trafficking trade, officials and migration experts said yesterday.
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A boat carrying hundreds of migrants from Burma and Bangladesh has been towed out of Indonesian waters, a navy spokesman said on Tuesday, but it remains unclear where the vessel is destined next.
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A regional crackdown on human trafficking in Southeast Asia could have an impact on thousands of Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya, the ethnic group that has been the target of discrimination in Myanmar.
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Thai national police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang has proposed setting up official camps to shelter Rohingya migrants in a bid to regulate the influx of migrants and to deal decisively with human trafficking.
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The refugees fleeing Myanmar, from the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, have been persecuted for decades. They have been evicted from their homes and kicked off their land, and attacked by the military and by Buddhist extremists in Rakhine, the western coastal state where they live. Their voting rights were effectively revoked in February. Their government insists that they are in the country illegally, and most neighboring countries refuse to accept them.
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According to recent interviews by Shan Human Rights Foundation, Kokang refugees sheltering in China remain fearful of return, due to alleged “killings, beheadings and disappearance” of villagers caught returning home.
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More than 1,000 refugees, including many women and children, came ashore in Malaysia early on Monday in what appears to be a sign of an accelerated exodus from western Myanmar and Bangladesh.
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Four boats carrying some 1,400 Rohingya migrants were rescued off the coasts of Indonesia and Malaysia on Monday, officials said, a day after nearly 600 others arrived in a wooden vessel off Indonesia’s Aceh.
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Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said Monday. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger.
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More than 70 Burmese nationals, apparently smuggled into Thailand by human traffickers, have been found starving in the forest in the country’s central Chumphon province.
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Stories of murder and torture are beginning to emerge as the first Myanmar fishermen, rescued from slavery at the hands of their captors, return home from Indonesia. The first group of 15 fishermen, out of 535 who are known to have been enslaved, were brought home on May 9.
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Agartala: At least 25 people, including women and children from Myanmar suspected to be victims of an international human trafficking racket, were arrested by Tripura police on Saturday for illegally entering the country. (more…)

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards, speaking on May 8 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, has voiced alarm over the growing number of people fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh by sea.
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Canada’s religious freedom ambassador denounced the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar and urged Canadian businesses eager to find opportunities in that resource-rich country to respect human rights.
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Around 1,600 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Sunday and detained in Malaysia on Monday. (more…)

A Statement from the Migrants Working Group forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

It was reported that on 1 May 2015, that police officials from Sadao District, Songkhla, uncovered a concealed camp at which they found 26 dead bodies in Ban Taloh, Tambon Padang Besar, Sadao District, Songkhla. (more…)

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