Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Expanding our horizons

Late last month, leaders of the Asia Pacific gathered in Bangkok for an emergency summit to tackle the refugee crisis unfolding off the coast of south-east Asia. Our government’s response has been horribly inadequate. “Nope, nope, nope” condemns innocent people to die.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have taken crucial steps by offering temporary humanitarian assistance and reversing policies of turning back boats. Further progress on the issue has seen Malaysia and Indonesia announce they will take in 7,000 people stranded at sea. Unfortunately, this falls short of what’s needed. There are still thousands of people stuck on boats, and with dwindling food and fuel supplies most won’t make it ashore without help.

Graeme McGregor, Amnesty’s Refugee Campaign Coordinator, calls for Australian support of immediate search and rescue operations. “At the same time, we must champion new solutions like creating safe routes to protection for refugees in our region,” he says. “We know that many of those stranded in boats are Rohingya people – a persecuted ethnic minority from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Rohingya are stateless with no citizenship rights. Because of this, they’re often victims of human trafficking. Wherever they go, they face discrimination, violence and hardship. It’s no wonder they flee.”

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