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Human rights group: PH puts ‘boat people’ to death by turning them away

/ 07:13 PM May 18, 2015

AN INTERNATIONAL human rights group condemned the stand of the Philippine government that declared it would drive away thousands of undocumented “boat people” from Myanmar and Bangladesh who have fled their countries to escape persecution and poverty.

READ: PH to push boat people back to sea

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Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phelim Kine slammed the government policy as “heartless,” adding that it will condemn the undocumented migrants to death.

“It’s unacceptable that the Philippine government’s response to an ongoing sea-borne humanitarian crisis is to deny any responsibility to assist and instead declare the Philippines Navy will push back out to sea desperate Rohingya migrants who might enter Philippines waters illegally. That heartless policy choice effectively condemns to death those desperate boat people, who are already sick, starving and dying of thirst, who enter Philippines waters seeking assistance,” Kine said in a statement.

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He said that if the Philippine government will tow the migrants away just like what Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand did, it will tarnish the distinction of the country for accommodating Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War.

Kline said that sending away the Rohingya migrants will aggravate their already vulnerable situation.

“The government of President Benigno S. Aquino III should understand that turning a blind eye to the plight of the Rohingya boat people will not just put those thousands of desperate men, women and children in deadly peril, but do severe damage to the Philippines reputation as a country which respects its international obligations and chooses compassion and generosity over knee-jerk ‘border protection’ measures which do nothing but compound the suffering of migrants who are already extremely vulnerable,” Kine said.

The migrant crisis leaves the Aquino government with a choice: either to adhere or violate international agreements concerning the welfare of migrants that it ratified such as the 1951 refugees convention and its protocols and the Palermo convention and its protocols, Kine added.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. was quoted in an Inquirer report on Sunday saying that the Philippine government will drive away Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants if they are undocumented and cannot prove that they are asylum seekers.

Reports said that about 6,000 migrants, most of whom are hungry and sick, are adrift in the Southeast Asian seas after fleeing their home countries. They are said to be victims of human smuggling.

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TAGS: Bangladesh, Boat People, Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Malacañang, Myanmar, Phelim Kine
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