Deals unlikely at migrant crisis meet

Deals unlikely at migrant crisis meet
A Royal Malaysian Police forensic team handles exhumed human remains in a jungle at Bukit Wang Burma in the Malaysian northern state of Perlis, which borders Thailand, on May 26, 2015.

International organisations attending a meeting in Bangkok today on the boat people crisis are calling for closer regional coordination as well as more lasting solutions to prevent an exodus in future.

The meeting will bring together senior officials from 17 countries, mostly from Asia. The United States and Switzerland are participating as observers. Three international organisations - the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as well as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) - will also take part.

While proposals to resolve the migrant crisis will be presented, the meeting is not expected to produce anything binding or decisive, given that many of the representatives, including those from key countries like Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia, are not sending ministers.

Myanmar has indicated it has no plans to reach any deal. "We are going there only to discuss the regional crisis which all of the ASEAN countries are facing," Mr Htein Lin, director-general at Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and head of the delegation from Myanmar, told Reuters yesterday.

The three international organisations are proposing that participating countries adopt a 10-point action plan that would allow the stricken seaborne migrants to disembark at their closest available port and be granted shelter, as well as improve conditions in their source countries.

UNHCR spokesman Vivian Tan told The Straits Times: "There's talk to create some kind of fund to try to resolve this."

She noted that resettlement is a rather limited solution. "The need for resettlement is massive around the world… (but) there are less than 30 resettlement countries and they offer a limited number of slots," she said.

The Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar and make up a large number of the migrants stranded at sea in recent weeks, need to be assessed alongside those fleeing violent conflicts in Syria and Sudan, for example.

"One out of 10 refugees that need to be resettled actually gets it," Ms Tan added.

Every year, thousands of Rohingya Muslims and economic migrants from Bangladesh travel by boat down the Andaman Sea in search of better lives, usually in Malaysia, spawning a lucrative human trafficking trade.

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