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Thailand Hosts Regional Meeting on Immigration Crisis

Monday, 01 June 2015

BANGKOK – Representatives from 17 countries and international organizations will meet in Bangkok on Friday to discuss Southeast Asia’s illegal immigrant crisis, as thousands remain stranded in boats in the Bay of Bengal.

Thailand called the meeting in the wake of a campaign against people-trafficking it started after discovering clandestine illegal immigrant camps in the south of the country in early May.

That campaign led to the arrest of 46 people and left thousands of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and the Rohingya Muslim minority abandoned at sea by the traffickers.

Those trapped at sea have now begun to disembark in Indonesia and Malaysia, since those countries agreed to provide them temporary shelter last week.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration estimate there are still around 2,600 Bangladeshi and Rohingya immigrants at sea.

Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand will participate in the meeting, which will also include observers from Switzerland and the United States and delegates from UN agencies for refugees, migration and crime prevention.

Several observers have expressed doubts the one-day meeting will be able to fulfill its aim of reaching a global agreement to tackle the crisis, especially with no ministerial representation.

On Thursday, Myanmar warned it would walk out of the meeting if it raises the issue of Rohingyas, a minority Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and which it grants only limited rights to freedom of movement, to own property and to have children.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights on Thursday urged participants to present concrete solutions to the problems, including allowing those still at sea to disembark, protecting their rights and convincing Myanmar and Bangladesh to end discrimination against the Rohingya minority.

“The Bangkok summit is an opportunity to develop a genuine regional effort to address all the many dimensions of the crisis in line with international human rights law that must not be missed,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

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