International refugee crises are becoming daily news, and not jut on the Mediterranean or Rio Grande. The worst might well be in the Pacific Ocean. Reuters reports:
Malaysia said on Thursday it would push boats full of migrants back to sea, a policy that has drawn criticism from the U.N. refugee agency as thousands remained adrift in Southeast Asian waters.
The UNHCR has said several thousand migrants have been abandoned at sea by smugglers following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking and has warned the situation could develop into a “massive humanitarian crisis”.
This policy comes after Thailand, a frequent destination for refugees, clamped down on human trafficking earlier this month. The move has stranded several thousands at sea and the migrants have been rerouted to Indonesia and Malaysia, sometimes by Thai officials themselves.
Many of the migrants in question are Rohingya Muslims, one of the world’s most persecuted peoples. About three-quarters of a million Rohingya live in Burma, where they are denied full citizenship and many basic rights. Tens of thousands have already fled to Malaysia, where they join a tide of refugees that also includes many impoverished Bangladeshis.
But apparently the Malaysians are declaring that they won’t take in any more. Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister said “We have to consider what our people want to see us doing. They don’t want to see immigrants come into our country.” With everyone saying “no” and the boats not going home, the U.N. has said that the migrant situation in Southeast Asian waters could become a “massive humanitarian crisis.”