Clamours grow for rescuing migrants at sea (The Financial Express (Bangladesh))

Four international organisations sent in Tuesday a clarion call to Southeast Asian leaders to save the endangered migrants and refugees stranded on vessels at sea, as many of them are dying in what is seen as a humanitarian crisis.

Save lives, protect rights and respect human dignity, says the UN-led call to the leaders of the countries concerned, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in particular.

In their urgent call they asked for facilitating safe disembarkation of the hordes of deceived job-seekers from Bangladesh and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, who have been floating on crammed boats off the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

The organisations are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG).

Rights and civil-society groups in Bangladesh also continued their appeal for helping out those cursed to a fate no less terrible than that of the ‘Ancient Mariner’.

“We are deeply concerned at reports that boats full of vulnerable women, men and children are unable to land and are stranded at sea without access to urgently needed food, water, and medical assistance,” the UN-led joint statement said.

“We urge States in the region to protect the lives of all aboard by allowing the passengers on these overcrowded boats to disembark safely,” it reads.

They urgently called on the leaders, with the support of ASEAN, to make saving lives the top priority by inter alia significantly strengthening Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations.

They also urged, among others, stopping boat push-backs and measures to ‘help on’ boats to leave territorial waters, while ensuring that all measures taken are in strict accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and other fundamental human rights standards.

Another call was to put in place dedicated measures to combat xenophobia and discrimination against any group on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, ethnicity, nationality and national origin, or other status.

Meanwhile, representatives from 120 grassroots people’s organisations, civil society and human rights groups expressed deep concern over the nemesis of 6,000 to 8,000 stranded Bangladeshis and Rohingyas as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have refused to give them shelter.

They expressed their worries at the 2015 Asia Pacific CSO Forum on Sustainable Development in Bangkok, Thailand. The statement was issued Tuesday by the National Alliance for Migrants Rights, Bangladesh (NAMR, B), which is also a representative of the forum.