Momentum Gathers For Solution As Philippines Offers A Haven
The Philippines have made an offer to accept up to 3,000 Rohingya as refugees who are currently stranded at sea. Following local reports that the Philippines had also rejected the notion of accepting Rohingya, the Justice Secretary Leia de Lima spoke on Monday of an obligation to assist political asylum seekers.
Earlier today, Vivian Tan of UNHCR had informed Restless Beings that 330 Rohingya that arrived in Kuala Cangkoi, Indonesia had been registered. A further group of Rohingya are currently being registered in Langsa, Aceh and a smaller group of 90+ Rohingya are waiting to be registered once the UNHCR team moves from Langsa.
The offer of hosting the Rohingya as refugees from the Philippines has been compared by its offer made to Vietnamese refugees in the 1970's. It must be noted that the same nation also offered sanctuary for Jewish refugees escaping the horrors of the Holocaust.
Already having spent months at sea making the journey from Arakan state in Myanmar to Langkawi or Aceh, the Rohingya have spent in some cases more than 2 months at sea. Daily, media outlets are reporting horror stories such as those on board drinking their own urine, rape and gender-based exploitation as well as brutality when fighting over remaining scraps of food supplies. The majority of the boats are fishing boats intended for short journeys to reel fishing nets in. And yet, a journey of almost 1500 kilometres has been made.
The prospect of a journey which would be in excess of a further 2,000 kilometres awaits the Rohingya if they are to reach their potential haven of the Philippines. Unless they are assisted in that journey, much more will lose their lives.
The stark reality is that with very limited supplies and boats which are at the point of sinking, whilst the Philippines offer is a bright shining light of hope, without intervention, the Rohingya will never reach there.
António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; William L. Swing, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration; and Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development all signed a statement directed to ASEAN leaders to extend their hand of help to the stranded at sea this afternoon in a bid to build on momentum.
We now need your support to overwhelm the momentum by increasing that pressure on ASEAN nations and to go one step further and ask ASEAN nations to pressurise Burma's Government to overturn their policy towards the Rohingya.