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ROHINGYAS REFUGEES February 22, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Human Rights.
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The human story of refugees, regardless of their origins, is never told. We are supposed to believe that they were induced them to part with their money and risk their lives to set out on risky ocean voyages.

Even those who are succeed in reaching Australia are then incarcerated in cruel and inhuman conditions, often in off shore locations. This is not a deterrence policy to stop people getting on boats because it ignores the social conditions they are fleeing from.

A group of Rohingyas, from Burma, are the latest example. Here is one account from Answer Man on youtube:

Refugees from Myanmar who were rescued from a drifting ship at the weekend, said nearly a hundred other passengers died of hunger and thirst.

The ship was found off Sri Lanka at the weekend, and 31 men and one boy were rescued in the land of the Sri Lankan Navy.

The survivors have been told that the ship lost engine power and drifted around the Indian Ocean in two months. On board there was enough food and water for one month, and 98 people have succumbed to hunger and thirst.

The survivors will have gone completely out of food 21 days before they were rescued. A fishing boat tipped the Sri Lankan Navy on the ship, writes Reuters .

The refugees who died were thrown overboard, according to the survivors. Also the captain of the ship lost their lives in the tragedy.

15 of the survivors are in a hospital in southern Sri Lanka, while the remaining 17 have been discharged from hospital and is in custody pending litigation.

The objective of the mission was to reach Australia and Indonesia to apply for asylum.

The refugees belonging to the Muslim minority group Rohingyas, who are not citizens of Myanmar.

Megan Levy for The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The rescue took place on Saturday, about 465 kilometres off Sri Lanka’s eastern coast.

The Sri Lankan navy released photographs of some of the emaciated survivors, who were receiving medical attention after their ordeal.
The survivors said they were heading to Indonesia and Australia to seek asylum, and identified themselves as Muslims from a border village between Burma and Bangladesh, police said.
Mr O’Connor said he was yet to receive a full briefing on the situation, but the reported deaths underlined the danger of getting on people smugglers’ boats and making the perilous journey to Australia.
”It is the people smugglers who have lured people onto unseaworthy vessels. It’s the people smugglers who peddle lies to these people, take their life savings, sometimes sadly take their lives. That’s where I target the blame,” Mr O’Connor told Fairfax Radio.
Mr O’Connor, who was sworn in as Immigration Minister earlier this month, said he was determined to implement the Houston panel recommendations on asylum seekers, made in August last year.
”[The panel] put together 22 recommendations and I think it’s really now time for, certainly the opposition, to have a re-think about their opposition to some of those recommendations because I just think we’ve got to take the politics out of this, focus on what we can do to prevent people dying at sea in this manner,” he said.
”Whatever may or may not have worked in the past, it’s not going to work today, and I think therefore we really need to look at how we implement those policies because I do not want to see, as minister, any further lives lost at sea.”

The Minister may well advance the Houston committee as the source of all wisdom, but The Conversation was able to arrange a panel with contrasting views. As an example:

The Houston panel: The panel recommends that disruption strategies be continued as part of any comprehensive approach to the challenges posed by people smuggling and that relevant Australian agencies be resourced with appropriate funding on a continuing basis for this purpose.

The panel notes that the conditions necessary for effective, lawful and safe turnback of irregular vessels carrying asylum seekers to Australia are not currently met, but that this situation could change in the future, in particular if appropriate regional and bilateral arrangements are in place.

The Conversation panel: Countries that agree to provide refugee protection – including Australia – should provide air transport from origin and transit countries to destination countries for all persons assessed as being in need of protection. Providing an opportunity for legal and safe passage to Australia could help reduce unauthorised entries.

The debate is more about politics than principles, and the ALP is apparently in fear of been wedged between its social conservative and social liberal supporters. There is an alternative to advance principle of common humanity. We need to understand why refugees are prepared to risk everything in their attempt to come to Australia, or get out of their existing circumstances.

Last year, CNN interviewed Mark Goudcamp:

Reuters, presumably along with other news agencies reported earlier in February on the flight of Rohingyas from the border villages between Bangladesh and Burma:

Nearly 6,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in Thailand since October, when sectarian violence flared in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and displaced tens of thousands of people, a top Thai security agency said on Thursday

Entire communities of Rohingyas are languishing in makeshift camps in Myanmar, without access to healthcare or clean water, according to the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid group, while Thailand has promised humane treatment for the 5,899 who have arrived on its shores.

“Those detained will continue to be treated as illegal and given only basic care in line with humanitarian practices,” said Dittaporn Sasamit, a spokesman for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

“The Foreign Ministry is negotiating with other countries to take them on and is seeking (Myanmar) citizenship papers for them so they can move on,” he said.

Myanmar’s reformist government has been criticized for its treatment of Rohingyas and its poor handling of clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in June and October. The Rohingyas came off worst in a statewide spree of machete and arson attacks.

Many Rohingyas arrived in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar as laborers from what is now Bangladesh under British rule in the 19th century, grounds the government uses to deny them citizenship.
Most of the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are regarded by authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which does not recognize them either. The United Nations has referred to them as “virtually friendless”.

Thousands of Rohingyas flee from Myanmar each year on rickety boats seeking refuge and jobs in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but the number has swelled since the unrest.

 

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