In Southeast Asia, boats of migrants are on a sad odyssey, floating from coast to coast in search of refuge. One country, at least, appears prepared to help ease the migrant crisis: the Philippines’ foreign affairs department said Tuesday that they would aid the thousands of Burmese Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people currently trapped at sea after fleeing their home countries.
The crisis appears to have been prompted, in part, by a crackdown on human trafficking in Thailand, which was a popular destination for migrants. Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia have all declined to accept the boat people, though Thailand supplied them with food and water last week.
The Philippines have not yet specified exactly what kind of help it will provide, saying that “We can’t go into much detail yet. We are not yet into that point. What we are saying now is our broad policy statement regarding this issue.” Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma is also quoted as saying “As the only predominantly Catholic nation in Southeast Asia, it is our duty to provide succour to those in need.”
The Filipino help is sorely needed, but it’s a stopgap measure, and without a plan for dealing with Bangladeshi strife and Burma’s boiling ethnic and religious violence, the migrants will keep coming. It’s a story all too common the world over. As several senior UN officials put it today in a statement, “perilous journeys, whether by land, sea, or air, have become a global phenomenon”—and a crisis unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.