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PH cannot just turn ‘boat people’ away – De Lima

/ 06:08 PM May 18, 2015

THE Philippine government cannot just turn away undocumented Asian “boat people,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday.

She said pushing the boat people away would send a wrong message to the United Nations.

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“We are supposed to be a State party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. All these years, the Philippines has been doing its share in terms of helping out [refugees], in terms of protection to those who are forcibly subjects or victims of persecution from their countries of origin,” de Lima told reporters in an ambush interview.

“So, hindi natin pwedeng sabihin na just because they are undocumented, we drive them away automatically. No, because we are talking about lives here. We are trying to save lives,” de Lima added.

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She said following the convention, there is a process in place to accord protection to asylum seekers.

Malacañang earlier said if documented migrant arrivals qualify as refugees or asylum seekers, the Bureau of Immigration will allow them entry.

But de Lima pointed out that “boat people are undocumented” because they escaped from their own country.

“Aliens who enter the Philippines without a passport or on false passport are undocumented which is a violation of our immigration law that will ordinarily subject them to exclusion proceeding,” de Lima said.

“However, asylum seekers cannot always be expected to obtain travel documents particularly where the agent of persecution is the State. Hence, their situation deserves to be treated and examined in a different context,” she added.

De Lima said as early as the World War II, the Philippines has provided asylum to 1,500 Jews refugees who had been denied asylum in other countries. AC

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