Daily World News Digest, 20 May 2015

Asia boat migrants rescued as nations hold emergency talks

The BBC reports today that hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have been rescued by fishermen off the coast of Indonesia. Local officials said more than 370 migrants, including at least 50 women and children, had been at sea for weeks and were starving and dehydrated. The latest rescue comes as ministers from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia held emergency talks in Kuala Lumpur on what is a growing humanitarian crisis. One of the rescued migrants, Ubaydul Haque, told the Associated Press they had been at sea for four months, that their engine was not working and that the captain had fled. “We ran out of food, we wanted to enter Malaysia but we were not allowed.” The stand-off has left thousands of Bangladeshi economic migrants and Rohingya Muslims – fleeing persecution in Myanmar – stranded at sea. An unknown number have died and those still on boats are living in poor conditions with little food and water. http://bbc.in/1cOfp0S

Thousands stranded at sea in Southeast Asia

Amnesty International issued a statement today accusing the Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities of defying international human rights law and their duty to protect, in their approach to the 6,000 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh stranded at sea and seeking refuge on land. “Many have been on boats in harrowing conditions for more than two months and are in desperate need of food, water and medical care. Refusing to rescue or pushing back the boats may be tantamount to a death sentence. Reports from UNHCR suggest that this unfolding humanitarian crisis has seen at least 300 people die on boats so far in 2015,” the statement said. http://bit.ly/1AeAtZy

IOM, UNHCR, OHCHR, UN SRSG Migration & Development joint statement

The International Organization for Migration issued a statement on 19 May, together with UNHCR, OHCHR and the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Migration and Development, emphasizing that search and rescue at sea, disembarkation, and protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants is now imperative to save lives in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. “We strongly urge the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to protect migrants and refugees stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, to facilitate safe disembarkation, and to give priority to saving lives, protecting rights, and respecting human dignity,” the statement said. “Grave events in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in recent days involving migrants and refugees – Rohingya and others – from Bangladesh and Myanmar confirm that vulnerable people around the world are moving in search of safety and dignity, fleeing persecution, abject poverty, deprivation, discrimination, and abuse. Such perilous journeys, whether by land, sea, or air, have become a global phenomenon,” it added, noting that in Southeast Asia, more than 88,000 people have made the dangerous voyage by sea since 2014, including 25,000 who arrived in the first quarter of this year alone. Nearly 1,000 are believed to have perished at sea due to the precarious conditions of the voyage, and an equal number because of mistreatment and privation at the hands of traffickers and abusive smugglers. http://bit.ly/1eeVuJr

In Ukraine, volunteers collect soldiers’ bodies

Aljazeera reported on 19 May on the work of a group of volunteers in Ukraine who collect the bodies of soldiers from the conflict zone and take them behind the lines for identification. A squad of 30 calling themselves the Black Tulips recover the remains of Ukraine’s lost soldiers, often working in trenches and fields littered with mines and unexploded shells. Many of the volunteers were members of a group known as the National Memory Union, which scoured World War II battlefields for the remains of unidentified soldiers. The actual number of soldiers killed from 1941-45 far surpassed the official statistics, and the National Memory Union volunteers were determined to return those left behind to their families, even if it was 70 years late. Today, the Black Tulips’ mission is no longer historical. Retrieved Ukrainian bodies are taken to government-controlled areas, where the Ministry of Defense begins the arduous process of identification. While hundreds of Ukrainian wives and families have buried their sons and fathers, there are still hundreds more who are waiting for the results from the country’s overwhelmed and under-equipped DNA facilities. http://alj.am/1PVRhpQ

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.