Migrants face uncertainty but they're better off on land than adrift at sea

Migrants face uncertainty but they're better off on land than adrift at sea

SIK - For the 1,107 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants behind bars at the Immigration Detention Centre in Belantik after being abandoned by a trafficking syndicate in Langkawi, their fate now hangs in the balance.

The faces of those at the centre show the fatigue and anxiety, whose journey across the seas may now have been in vain.

However, their fate - as they are housed and fed in separate quarters for men and women at the centre - is still better than the other migrants still drifting, hungry and thirsty, in rickety boats in the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca.

Speaking to reporters after visiting the centre, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Myanmar government had to take proactive steps to solve the human trafficking issue involving Rohingyas.

He said he had been told that Myanmar would not be attending a coordination meeting between the Foreign Ministries of ASEAN countries held to discuss the issue.

"We hope that Myanmar can take respectable steps to address this issue.

"The United Nations High Commi­ssioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should also not wash their hands of this matter by issuing refugee cards to the migrants after they are released.

"This is very unfair. The UNHCR should find ways to help, instead of pushing the responsibilities to us," he said at the Anti-Smuggling Unit headquarters in Padang Besar yesterday.

The Malaysian Government, he said, had done whatever they could on humanitarian grounds to help the migrants detained at the centre.

"The international community should see that we have done our best to help the migrants, rather than criticising us and painting a bad image of Malaysia.

"We are aware that there are still many out there in the sea and the enforcement agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the navy, marine police and the Immigration Depart­ment are making sure that they do not enter Malaysian waters.

"We are also working with our counterparts in Thailand to handle this issue," he said.

Dr Ahmad Zahid was accompanied on his visit by Kelab Putera 1Malaysia (KP1M) president Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

Abdul Azeez said he had, through KP1M and the Umno Welfare Bureau, delivered some RM400,000 (S$148,204) in aid comprising hygiene kits, pillows, blankets, sanitary pads, diapers, Milo, coffee and rice.

"We also brought in 20 doctors to check their health and got them vaccinated, Two of the detainees were sent to the hospital as they have pneumonia," said Abdul Azeez.

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