Palace firm on turning away ‘boat people’ from Myanmar, Bangladesh
Malacañang on Monday maintained the Philippines will drive away Asian “boat people” or the undocumented migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh if they ever land in the country’s shores.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. defended the position of the Palace saying that it is a “mere restatement of applicable provisions of our existing laws.”
Despite its firm stance against undocumented migrants, the Palace said it has historically extended humanitarian assistance to “boat people,” such as the case of the Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.
“The Philippines has extended humanitarian assistance to ‘boat people’ and had even established a processing center for Vietnamese travelers in the seventies,” Coloma said in a statement.
He added the Philippines is a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which provides “succor and relief to persons involuntarily displaced from their homelands as a consequence of political conflict.”
“We shall continue to do our share in saving lives under existing and long-standing mechanisms pursuant to our commitments under the Convention,” the Presidential Communications Operations Office chief said.
In an earlier Inquirer report, Coloma was quoted as saying that the Philippines will only accept documented migrants who qualify as asylum seekers.
According to reports, some 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar are adrift in boats in the Southeast Asian seas after being abandoned by smugglers. The migrants, who are fleeing persecution and poverty from their home countries, are said to be sick and starving in the boats.
In recent days, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have drove back or towed migrant boats away from their shores, which the International Organization for Migration described as “maritime ping-pong with human lives.”
Leaders from 15 countries concerned with the migration crisis will meet in Bangkok on May 29 to address the issue. TVJ
Bay of Bengal migrant crisis: the boats and the numbers
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