Daily World News Digest, 18 May 2015

UN High Commissioner calls for new policy on Southeast Asian migrants

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday urged governments in the region to take swift action to protect the lives of some 6,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants believed to be still stranded at sea in precarious conditions in Southeast Asia. The UN Human Rights Chief praised Indonesia for disembarking 582 migrants on 10 May, and Malaysia for disembarking 1,018 the following day, but said that the pushbacks that had also been taking place were endangering lives. Zeid also expressed alarm at reports that countries in the region are threatening to criminalize vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers who have crossed borders irregularly. Last year, the number of people leaving Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat is estimated to have climbed to around 53,000. Some 920 migrants are known to have perished in the Bay of Bengal between September 2014 and March this year. They have been predominantly Rohingya fleeing persecution from Rakhine State in Myanmar, with increasing numbers of impoverished Bangladeshi migrants taking to the seas over the last year. http://bit.ly/1H8yEKA

Indonesia city needs help to cope with migrant crisis

The BBC reports today that the Indonesian city where about 1,500 migrants have landed after being abandoned at sea says it urgently needs help to care for them. The mayor of Langsa, in Aceh province, told the BBC that finances were tight. “We need some help, immediately, from our national government or any other institution,” said Usman Abdullah. Thousands of people, fleeing persecution and poverty, are thought to be adrift in seas in Southeast Asia. No country is willing to take in the migrants – who are mainly from the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar. Only those whose boats sink or who reach land are being given shelter. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have all been turning boats away, after giving them water and food. Last week, Indonesian fishermen saved about 700 migrants from their sinking boat and brought them to Langsa. http://bbc.in/1HmF8Im

Islamic State militants smuggled to Europe

The BBC reported on 17 May that Islamic State (IS) fighters are being smuggled into Europe by gangs in the Mediterranean, according to a Libyan government advisor. Officials in Italy and Egypt have previously warned that IS militants could reach Europe by migrant boat. However, experts have cautioned that it is very difficult to verify or assess such claims. About 60,000 people are estimated to have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, fleeing conflict and poverty. Since the 2011 uprising, Libya has been without a stable government, and the chaos has allowed trafficking networks there to thrive. http://bbc.in/1GgLcmQ

US: Trauma in family immigration detention

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 15 May on the impact that indefinite detention has on mothers and their children seeking asylum in the United States. The Obama administration has until 24 May to propose a plan in response to a federal judge’s preliminary ruling that family detention violates a binding settlement on the rights of migrant children. Human Rights Watch called on the US authorities immediately to release migrant families detained after entering the United States to seek asylum. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has responsibility for immigration detention centers, announced on 13 May that it would create new oversight mechanisms for family detention. It said that it would no longer make the argument in individual cases that it can detain families to deter future migrants and would review every 60 days the custody status of families detained more than three months. http://bit.ly/1QPxMSa

UAE: Three sisters released after three months in secret detention for tweeting

Amnesty International reported on 15 May that three sisters were reunited with their family after spending three months in secret detention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The women were detained after posting comments on Twitter on behalf of their brother, a prisoner of conscience in the Gulf state. According to Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender, the sisters, Asma Khalifa al-Suwaidi, Mariam Khalifa al-Suwaidi and Dr Alyaziyah Khalifa al-Suwaidi, were dropped off at their family home at close to noon local time on 15 May. They had not been heard from since they were summoned for questioning at an Abu Dhabi police station on 15 February and then taken into the custody of the UAE’s state security apparatus. http://bit.ly/1EW9gap

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff.  These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.