PARIS — Up to 8,000 Rohingya, a long-persecuted Burmese minority, are still reportedly stranded on rickety boats in deplorable and perilous conditions, weeks after being abandoned by human traffickers in the Andaman Sea.
Denied safe passage on the shores of countries in the region, the plight of this Muslim ethnic group is however just one of the planet's many humanitarian disasters swirling around the issue of migration right now.
Refugees and would-be immigrants fleeing violence and poverty are making headlines on every continent. It's a world map of human misery that political leaders appear ill-equipped to resolve: 4 million Syrians who fled to neighboring countries; 550,000 South Sudanese taking refuge in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda or Sudan; a rising death toll in dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean by people escaping conflict in the Middle East and Africa; a human trafficking route that extends from Central America through Mexico to the United States.
Here's a glance at some of the flashpoints, and the coverage in the global media.
- Often described as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities,” the Rohingya are effectively a stateless Muslim ethnic group repeatedly forced to flee persecution from Burmese Buddhists.
- Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have turned away the refugee boats, though the Philippines now appears ready to welcome at least some Rohingya.
- A regional meeting on the crisis has been set for May 29 in Bangkok, though observers note the situation remains extremely urgent.
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Source: The Bangkok Post, May 18, 2015
The ongoing disaster in the Southeast Asian Andaman Sea remains confused, in part because Bangladeshi migrants escaping poverty are also believed to be among the boat people, The Jakarta Post reports. This has led to violent clashes onboard between both communities, as conditions worsened. Survivors who reached Indonesia’s northern Aceh province described real “massacres” and “horrific scenes” involving “knives, machetes and iron bars,” the AFP reports. Witnesses say at least 100 people were killed and that “those who wanted to survive had to jump into the sea.”
Thai Deputy Secretary General for Security Issues Panitan Wattanayagorn said “it was up to the U.S. to take “real action” to address the problem,” the Bangkok Post reports.
- Some 4 million Syrian refugees have now taken refuge in its neighboring countries.
- 6.5 million have been internally displaced since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in March 2011.
- According to UNHCR figures, Turkey has received a record 1,760,000 asylum seekers while Lebanon has taken in 1,180,000, Jordan 627,000 and Iraq 248,000.
In addition to being the deadliest conflict in recent years, the Syrian civil war has also had disastrous effects on its neighbors.
In Jordan, for instance, the number of unemployed people has increased from 14.5% prior to the Syrian crisis in 2011 to 22.1% today, the Saudi Gazette reports. Economist Zayyan Zawaneh told The Jordan Times that “the increase in unemployment rates will affect the country’s social fabric.”
In Turkey, the arrival of Syrian refugees into tough living conditions across the country’s 22 refugee camps and large western cities have had similar effects. According to a report by the Washington Institute, about 83% of the registered Syrian refugees (up to 150,000 refugees have now allegedly illegally extended their stay) are concentrated in the five southern provinces of Turkey, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, and Sanliurf. The Washington Institute report says that “the refugee presence in these five provinces is altering their ethnic and sectarian balance. For instance, Kilis’s Arab population — previously less than 1% — has increased to 51%."