Asian countries take measures against people smuggling
Thirteen countries in the Asia Pacific region have declared their intention to better tackle the problem of illegal people smuggling across the borders. There will be tougher rules for criminal gangs and better search and rescue operations.
The sweeping three-page declaration, issued after a day of meetings in Indonesia’s capital, came just weeks before elections in Australia, the destination for thousands of people fleeing primarily South Asian countries, many of them in rickety boats, whose fate has become an emotional issue for Australian voters.
During the last month, the Australian Government announced that it will send the refugees without visas to Papua New Guinea, which has agreed to welcome them. The discussions in Jakarta brought Australia’s foreign and immigration ministers together with officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and other countries that are a source of migrants or that are waystations on the long route, such as Thailand and Indonesia.
The participants in the meeting said that they will work together in order to create an early warning system and to improve the ability of their military and police units to deal with the issue in such a way that loss of life is minimized and the traffickers are punished according to the law.
The reason for the new agreement between the countries is that illegal migration by sea has become a crisis in the region. Earlier Tuesday, five people were thought to be dead after a vessel foundered north of Australia’s Christmas Island, while the remaining 106 people were rescued, Australian maritime authorities said.
In Thailand, authorities were searching Tuesday for dozens of asylum-seekers from Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority who broke out of a detention centre.
The Rohingyas have been at the centre of more than a year of sectarian violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar that has killed hundreds of people and left more than 100,000 people homeless, most of them Muslims.