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Myanmar: Overview of the Apr. 2015 3W for South East of Myanmar (Bago (East), Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Shan (East), Shan (South) and Tanintharyi)

20 May 2015 - 11:57pm
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

The MIMU 3W gathers inputs from participating agencies on Who is doing What, Where, across Myanmar. It is currently conducted every 6 months.

205 agencies participated in the April 2015 3W, providing information on their activities in 19 sectors and 145 subsectors which have been defined by technical/sector working groups. There is still likely to be under-reporting of the specific activities of field-based local NGOs and CBOs.

This overview covers activities reported to the MIMU 3W in Bago (East), Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Shan (East), Shan (South) and Tanintharyi as of March 25th, 2015.

The tables and charts refer to projects under implementation as of March 25, 2015. For information on planned and recently completed projects is included in the 3W dataset which is available on the MIMU website, as well as in the MIMU 3W Dashboard which shows agencies’ activities to Township level.

Myanmar: Overview of the April 2015 3W, Kachin – Village level / Non-IDP Response

20 May 2015 - 11:53pm
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

The MIMU 3W gathers inputs from participating humanitarian and development agencies on Who is doing What, Where, across Myanmar. This exercise is currently conducted every 6 months, collecting information on agencies’ activities at village/township level (MIMU Village level 3W) as well as in IDP camps (MIMU Camp 3W).

205 agencies contributed to the April ‘15 3W, providing information on their activities in the 19 sectors and 145 sub-sectors defined through the technical/sector working groups. The level of reporting among INGOs, Red Cross and UN agencies and Border-based organisations is high, but there is still likely underreporting of the activities of field-based local NGOs and CBOs.

This Overview describes reported Projects under Implementation with Non-IDP beneficiaries at township, village tract or village level in Kachin as of March 25, 2015. Hence it includes activities with mixed beneficiary populations (non-IDP and IDP), but does not include interventions which were specified as “IDP-only”. A village tract level mapping of the projects reported by beneficiary type is also included.

Further information on planned and recently completed projects is available from the 3W dataset, published on the MIMU website and, at a glance, through the MIMU 3W Township Dashboard, http://themimu.info/3w-dashboard

Myanmar: Humanitarian Response Plan 2015: Myanmar Quarterly Monitoring Report - First Quarter (January – March 2015)

20 May 2015 - 10:33pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

CHANGES IN CONTEXT (SINCE DECEMBER 2014)

  • In Kachin, after a six month hiatus, the UN-led convoys to areas beyond government control resumed in March 2015. However, there are still restrictions on access to Laiza, where the majority of the IDPs are located. The security situation continues to deteriorate throughout Kachin and northern Shan states with sporadic clashes, resulting in approximately 20,000 people newly displaced. The ongoing conflict has also raised serious concerns over protection of civilians, including physical and psychological harm, Gender Based Violence (GVB) and grave violations against children.

  • In the Kokang Self-Administered Region, an eruption of new conflict caused additional displacement and put many civilians at risk. Actual numbers of displaced people are not known. Some are in camps but the majority of those who fled from Kokang went either to China (authorities in Yunnan report over 60,000) or they were migrant workers who have returned to their homes in other parts of Myanmar.

  • In Rakhine, the State Government initiated dismantling of temporary longhouses and building individual shelters on original plots in Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U and Rathedaung Townships. The state government has indicated its plans to return or relocate up to 5,000 families by June 2015.

  • In Rakhine, as the monsoon season approaches, there are growing concerns about the safety of people in Nget Chaung (6,000 people) and Ah Nauk Ywe (4,000 people) IDP camps in Pauktaw Township. People in these camps are highly vulnerable as the camps are located in an exposed area and on low land, which puts families and their belongings at high risk from flooding, storm surges and winds if there is a cyclone or tropical storm.

  • Nation-wide: the holders of temporary identity certificates (also known as white cards) were informed by a presidential decree in February 2015 that their documents would expire on 31 March 2015. Of the estimated 590,000 white card holders nation-wide, 490,000 are stateless Muslims from Rakhine State. They were told to surrender their cards on the said date and invited to participate in a process to determine their citizenship. The UN has raised with the President’s Office that those who surrender their documents should not experience a deterioration in their status or rights.

  • As part of the Government’s efforts on peace-building with ethnic groups, a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement was signed on 31 March, paving the way for holding political dialogue.

Myanmar: Myanmar Quarterly Monitoring Report - First Quarter (January – March 2015)

20 May 2015 - 10:33pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

CHANGES IN CONTEXT (SINCE DECEMBER 2014)

  • In Kachin, after a six month hiatus, the UN-led convoys to areas beyond government control resumed in March 2015. However, there are still restrictions on access to Laiza, where the majority of the IDPs are located. The security situation continues to deteriorate throughout Kachin and northern Shan states with sporadic clashes, resulting in approximately 20,000 people newly displaced. The ongoing conflict has also raised serious concerns over protection of civilians, including physical and psychological harm, Gender Based Violence (GVB) and grave violations against children.

  • In the Kokang Self-Administered Region, an eruption of new conflict caused additional displacement and put many civilians at risk. Actual numbers of displaced people are not known. Some are in camps but the majority of those who fled from Kokang went either to China (authorities in Yunnan report over 60,000) or they were migrant workers who have returned to their homes in other parts of Myanmar.

  • In Rakhine, the State Government initiated dismantling of temporary longhouses and building individual shelters on original plots in Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U and Rathedaung Townships. The state government has indicated its plans to return or relocate up to 5,000 families by June 2015.

  • In Rakhine, as the monsoon season approaches, there are growing concerns about the safety of people in Nget Chaung (6,000 people) and Ah Nauk Ywe (4,000 people) IDP camps in Pauktaw Township. People in these camps are highly vulnerable as the camps are located in an exposed area and on low land, which puts families and their belongings at high risk from flooding, storm surges and winds if there is a cyclone or tropical storm.

  • Nation-wide: the holders of temporary identity certificates (also known as white cards) were informed by a presidential decree in February 2015 that their documents would expire on 31 March 2015. Of the estimated 590,000 white card holders nation-wide, 490,000 are stateless Muslims from Rakhine State. They were told to surrender their cards on the said date and invited to participate in a process to determine their citizenship. The UN has raised with the President’s Office that those who surrender their documents should not experience a deterioration in their status or rights.

  • As part of the Government’s efforts on peace-building with ethnic groups, a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement was signed on 31 March, paving the way for holding political dialogue.

Myanmar: Humanitarian assistance to Burma

20 May 2015 - 8:44pm
Source: Government of Australia Country: Australia, Myanmar

The Australian Government will provide additional humanitarian assistance for people in need in Burma, including vital support to improve security and livelihoods for vulnerable communities in Rakhine state.

This contribution builds on our long-term support to Burma’s economic, political and social reform process, and our commitment to address security challenges in Burma.

It will also undermine the ability of people smugglers to sell the false hope of unsafe boat journeys to neighbouring countries.

  • The $6 million in additional funding will provide emergency food, shelter and protection, and includes: $2 million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to provide shelter for displaced people in Rakhine and Kachin States, with a focus on protecting women and girls from harm;
  • $3 million to the World Food Programme, to provide emergency food assistance to vulnerable people across Burma; and
  • $1 million to the Burma Emergency Response Fund to respond to emerging humanitarian needs.

This funding brings Australia’s total humanitarian assistance to people in need in Burma to $18 million since June 2014.

Media enquiries

Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500 DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555

Myanmar: Malaysia orders boatpeople search as Myanmar hosts envoy talks

20 May 2015 - 8:00pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

Sittwe, Myanmar | AFP | Thursday 5/21/2015 - 21:22 GMT

by Kelly MACNAMARA

Malaysia ordered search and rescue missions Thursday for thousands of boatpeople stranded at sea, as Myanmar hosted talks with US and Southeast Asian envoys on the migrant exodus from its shores.

The rescue order, which is the first proactive official move to save the thousands of persecuted Muslim Rohingya and Bangladeshi economic migrants believed currently to be adrift, comes a day after Malaysia and Indonesia said they would end a policy of turning away boats.

"We have to prevent loss of life," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Facebook account, announcing the measure.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told AFP his country had not made a similar order but the issue was "something that will be discussed".

As the migrant crisis has unfolded in the past few days, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have been heavily criticised for refusing to take in boats overloaded with exhausted passengers fleeing poverty or persecution.

But on Wednesday, Malaysia and Indonesia relented, announcing their nations would accept boatpeople for one year, or until they can be resettled or repatriated with the help of international agencies.

Thailand has declined to take in boatpeople but vowed not to push them away, and on Thursday Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha lashed out at critics of that stance by saying detractors could "migrate" to sea themselves, or take migrants into their own homes.

The Thai leader said his country was already home to more than 900,000 refugees from decades of regional turmoil.

Malaysia and Indonesia's policy about-turn was welcomed by the United States, which said it also stood ready to admit some of the migrants, as well as the Red Cross.

Malaysia and Indonesia's foreign ministers met Myanmar officials in Naypyidaw for talks late Thursday, where the fate of the Rohingya people remains an incendiary issue.

Indonesia's foreign ministry said in a statement Myanmar had agreed to "strengthen measures to prevent the irregular movement of migrants" from its territory and would also send officials from their embassy in Jakarta to visit boatpeople who had recently landed in the Aceh region.

There was no comment from the Myanmar side on the outcome of talks.

  • 'I don't want to go' -

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also due to raise the plight of the Rohingya in his meeting Thursday with Myanmar officials, including President Thein Sein, in Naypyidaw.

Members of the Muslim minority flee in droves from Myanmar each year, in an exodus that has surged following sectarian violence in 2012 pitting them against local Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine.

News of the diplomatic breakthrough from Indonesia and Malaysia was yet to trickle down to the displaced Rohingya lodged in ramshackle camps around the Myanmar state capital of Sittwe on Thursday.

Some Rohingya communities were raising funds to pay off the smugglers and buy back their loved ones stranded on boats at sea awaiting transit south.

"There were 300 people on our boat... we were in real difficulty, they beat the children... they didn't give us food," Malar Myaing, a 25-year-old mother of five told AFP from the Anuak San Pya camp in Sittwe after securing her family's release with a $100 payment.

"Thirty-five people came back to Sittwe, there are many people left at sea."

Tearful mothers holding photographs pleaded for help locating children who had not made contact since they left on boats weeks ago, an AFP reporter at the camp said.

Myanmar's government refuses to recognise the stateless Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

But Myanmar has confirmed it will attend a broader regional summit planned on the crisis in Bangkok on May 29, after the government this week softened its line by offering to provide humanitarian assistance.

The country also said it had began its own search and rescue operations a week ago, even before the UN expressed fears for the safety of some 2,000 people believed to be stranded on boats in its waters.

Pressure is building for greater action, however, with EU lawmakers passing a resolution Thursday saying Myanmar "must change policy and end the persecution and discrimination" of its Rohingya.

  • Thousands still adrift -

Nearly 3,000 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off the coastlines of the three countries over the past 10 days after a Thai crackdown on human-trafficking threw the illicit trade into chaos.

Some traffickers are believed to have abandoned their human cargo at sea with scant food or water.

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman said his intelligence services estimated that about 7,000 people were still adrift in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

The United States, Philippines and even the west African nation of Gambia have offered assistance or possible resettlement of Rohingya, evoking memories of an exodus of hundreds of thousands of boatpeople from Vietnam in the late 1970s.

Hours before Malaysia and Indonesia changed tack, more than 400 starving migrants were rescued from their decrepit boat off Indonesia by local fishing vessels Wednesday.

burs-pj/apj/jta/st

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Gambia: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya boatpeople

20 May 2015 - 4:43pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Gambia, Myanmar

Banjul, Gambia | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 19:30 GMT

Gambia said on Wednesday it would take in all Rohingya boatpeople as part of its "sacred duty" to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding Southeast Asia to escape oppression.

The government of the impoverished west African nation appealed to the countries of the region to send the migrants to its shores, where it said it would set them up in refugee camps.

"The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar -- especially those referred to as 'boatpeople' -- currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia," it said in a statement.

"As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with."

The statement appealed to the international community to send tents, bedding, household materials and medicine to help Muslim-majority Gambia set up "habitable camps with decent sanitary conditions".

The announcement came as the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand -- facing global criticism for turning away rickety boats packed with starving migrants -- gathered for talks on the issue.

Following appeals by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Washington last week for the migrants to be rescued, Pope Francis likened the plight of the Rohingya to that of Christian and ethnic Yazidi people brutalised by the Islamic State group.

Nearly 3,000 boatpeople already have swum to shore or been rescued off Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand over the past 10 days after a Thai crackdown disrupted long-established smuggling routes, prompting some of the gangs responsible to abandon their human cargo at sea.

  • Stranded -

The UN's refugee agency told AFP on Tuesday it had received reports that at least 2,000 migrants had been stranded for weeks on boats off the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts.

The Gambian government's position on the Rohingya contrasts sharply with President Yahya Jammeh's professed disdain for the thousands of African migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

More than 5,000 migrants, many from Gambia and its neighbours, have died in the past 18 months trying to cross into Europe.

Jammeh broke his public silence on the issue last week, saying in a televised address that "if these people are true Muslims... they should equally believe that their sons and daughters could have made it at home if they were ready to invest and work".

The president did not announce any proposals for solving the Mediterranean crisis but suggested that the kind of work migrants were undertaking in Europe was already available at home.

Jammeh, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler, has ruled the former British colony with an iron fist since seizing power in 1994.

The regime is frequently berated for human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists.

A third of the population in the tiny nation survives on $1.25 or less a day, according to the UN's 2013 Human Development Report.

bur-ft/mfp

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Indonesia: IHH helps Rohingyas taking shelter in Aceh

20 May 2015 - 3:33pm
Source: IHH Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

IHH and its partner organization PKPU in Indonesia started giving away hot meals and medications to the refugees from Arakan.

Fishermen from Aceh rescued around thousand Rohingya Muslims, who were left adrift at sea by the human smugglers last week. Rohingyas are offered shelter in a camp set up by the local government in Aceh. It is reported that the camps currently accommodate around 1,500 refugees.

The refugees were transferred to the camp in buses, police cars and trucks where they get food and shelter. IHH through its partner organization PKPU has started giving away hot meals and medication to the refugees on Sunday.

Stranded at sea for 3 months

It is reported that the Rohingya Muslims who were turned down by Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian governments were stranded at sea for 3 months.

Fleeing oppression and persecution

For many years ultra-nationalist Buddhists who are in majority in Myanmar and Myanmar government are persecuting Rohingya Muslims forcing them to flee to other countries. In 2012 the events took an even more violent turn. 140.000 Rohingya Muslims from Arakan are placed in the camps bordering sea under inhumane conditions. The other refugees stranded at sea were Bangladeshis who were trying to migrate due to poor economic conditions.

Following the operations to crack down the human smugglers in the region, ship captains and human smugglers left the boats carrying thousands of refugees adrift at sea.

It is more worrisome that there are a few more boats under these circumstances at sea. Human Rights Organizations blame the governments in the region for referring the refugees from one to the other thus playing with them like a ping pong ball.

Eight thousand refugees on boats

International Organization for Migration reports that there currently are eight thousand refugees in the human smuggling boats adrift in Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea.

The human smuggling route from Bangladesh to Malaysia starts with the transfer of refugees, who paid their fees, from fisherman boats to cargo ships. Following a two-week-voyage in the storerooms of cargo ships refugees arrive at Thailand. Human smugglers keep them locked up in the camps hidden away in jungles in southern Thailand and ask ransom from their families back home for their release. The smugglers starve and abuse the refugees until their ransom is paid. If the families fail to pay the ransom the refugees are either killed or sold as a slave in Thailand or Malaysia.

United States of America: US says 'ready to share burden' of Asian sea migrants

20 May 2015 - 2:54pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar, United States of America, World

Washington, United States | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 17:39 GMT

The United States is ready to help South East Asian countries "bear the burden" of a wave of sea-borne refugees, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday.

Welcoming a decision by Malaysia and Indonesia to stop turning away migrants packed into rickety boats, Harf said the United States would help UN agencies to set up protection centers and would consider requests to resettle some refugees.

"The US stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today. We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants who have risked their lives at sea," she told reporters.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in the region and will meet Thursday with Myanmar leaders to urge them to work with Bangladesh to help rescue and aid refugees adrift at sea.

"We remain concerned about the factors that drive people to risk their lives at sea, including the government of Burma's policy towards its Rohingya minority, and racially and religiously motivate discrimination," she added.

Myanmar, whose policies toward its ethnic Rohingya minority are widely blamed for fuelling the human flow, earlier Wednesday also softened its line by offering to provide humanitarian aid to stricken migrants.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand had sparked growing international outrage by driving off boats overloaded with exhausted and dying Rohingya as well as Bangladeshis.

A high-level US delegation will attend a May 29 conference on the migrant crisis being hosted by Thailand in Bangkok.

More than 1,000 Rohingya have been re-settled in the United States since October, and Harf said Washington would take "a leading role" in helping to take in some of the most vulnerable refugees.

But she cautioned it had to be an international effort, and not just led by the United States alone.

jkb/dc

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Indonesia: South East Asia: Necessary U-turn on refugee boats still leaves thousands at risk

20 May 2015 - 2:35pm
Source: Amnesty International Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand

The decision by Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to reverse an appalling policy of turning back boats carrying refugees and vulnerable migrants is a step in the right direction – but falls far short of the measures urgently needed to save thousands of lives still at risk at sea, or to address the root causes of the crisis, Amnesty International said.

“This is certainly good news for the people aboard those boats that manage to reach the safety of the shore – but it does nothing for the thousands still adrift at sea, with diminishing supplies of food and water, or for any more who may follow them,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. “Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia cannot shirk their duty as a states party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to provide maritime search and rescue operations to save lives.”

In a joint statement, Indonesia and Malaysia have said they will provide temporary shelter for up to 7,000 people still at sea, believed to be mainly Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar, as well as Bangladeshis. The shelter would only be provided for up to a year, and on condition that the international community would help with repatriation or resettlement efforts.

“Temporary shelter is a first step, and is better than no protection at all,” said Richard Bennett. “However, it is far from adequate, and risks undermining the international protection system. People claiming asylum must be able to access refugee status determination procedures, in safety and in dignity. Refugees and vulnerable migrants must not be criminalized for irregular entry, nor can they be returned to countries where their life or rights are at risk.”

The statement followed emergency talks about the regional crisis on Wednesday, attended by foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. There had been strong international criticism following reports that boats seeking to reach their shores had been driven back to sea, leaving those on board at risk of death.

Thailand did not sign on to the commitment to provide temporary shelter, citing domestic legal constraints. But it has pledged to not push back boats stranded in its waters, and to provide humanitarian assistance to those aboard.

“The people aboard the boats are in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. Turning them away was not only an affront to human decency, it was a violation of the principle of non-refoulement – a tenant of customary international law,” said Richard Bennett.

On 29 May, Thailand will host a regional summit bringing together key stakeholders – including the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, as well as Myanmar and UN agencies – to discuss the regional crisis.

“Next week’s conference offers an important opportunity to address the root causes of this crisis, including the systemic discrimination in law, policy and practice against the Rohingya and other minority populations in Myanmar,” said Richard Bennett.

BACKGROUND

In the last few weeks, increasing numbers of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh have arrived by boat in Malaysia and Indonesia. A crackdown on irregular arrivals in Thailand seems to have forced smugglers and traffickers to look for new routes. The International Organization for Migration believes that 6,000 people may still be on boats close to Thailand.

The thousands of people who have fled Bangladesh and Myanmar include vulnerable migrants, refugees such as Muslim Rohingya fleeing discrimination and violence in Myanmar, and victims of human trafficking.

Many are desperate enough to put their own lives at risk by braving dangerous journeys at sea in order to escape unbearable conditions at home.

Myanmar: Overview of the April 2015 3W Kayin State

20 May 2015 - 12:38pm
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

The MIMU 3W gathers inputs from participating agencies on Who is doing What, Where in Myanmar. It is currently conducted every 6 months.

205 agencies contributed to the April ‘15 3W, providing information on their activities in the 19 sectors and 145 sub-sectors defined through the technical/sector working groups. The level of reporting among INGOs, Red Cross and UN agencies and Border-based organisations is high, but there is still likely under-reporting of the activities of field-based local NGOs and CBOs.

This overview of the reported 3W results in Kayin describes projects under implementation as of March 25, 2015. Further information on planned and recently completed projects is available from the 3W dataset, published on the MIMU website and, at a glance, through the MIMU 3W Township Dashboard, http://themimu.info/3w-dashboard

1. Active Organizations in Kayin

A total of 61 organizations reported projects under implementation in Kayin. The majority are NGOs including 15 border-based organizations. Some level of agency activity has been reported almost in all village tracts (98%), with agencies most concentrated in Hpa-An, Thandaunggyi, Hlaingbwe, Kawkareik and Kyainseikgyi townships.

Malaysia: UNHCR Statement on Southeast Asia Sea Movements

20 May 2015 - 9:46am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

UNHCR welcomes the commitment announced today by the Foreign Ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to resolve the issue of the thousands of refugees and migrants stranded in boats in the Bay of Bengal and off the coast of Southeast Asia. This is an important initial step in the search for solutions to this issue, and vital for the purpose of saving lives.

It is now urgent for people to be brought ashore without delay, and that immediate first aid and other care is provided for all who are in need. We look forward to seeing this happen without delay.

UNHCR agrees with the Ministers that further action will be needed. This includes addressing root causes. It will need to take into account looking properly at the needs of those in need of international protection. As with other regions of the world where we are seeing large movements of people by sea, countries in the region will need to work together for this to be addressed meaningfully and successfully.

UNHCR itself is ready to work with countries in the region to find solutions to the plight of these people. These ultimately may include returning people to their home countries voluntarily and once conditions allow.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Bangkok, Vivian Tan +66 818 270 280
In Malaysia, Yante Ismail +601 3 352 6286
In Indonesia, Mitra Salima Suryono +62 818 157 962
In Rome, Carlotta Sami +39 335 679 4746
In London, Andrej Mahecic +44 78 802 30 985
In Paris, Philippe Leclerc +33 1 44 43 48 50
In Madrid, Maria Jesus Vega +34 670 661 263
In Geneva, Adrian Edwards +41 79 557 9120
In Geneva, Babar Baloch +41 79 557 9106
In Geneva, William Spindler +41 79 217 30 11

Indonesia: Glimmer of hope for Southeast Asia's migrants

20 May 2015 - 9:18am
Source: IRIN Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

OXFORD/KUALA LUMPUR, 20 May 2015 (IRIN) - Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide temporary shelter and assistance to thousands of migrants still stranded at sea in Southeast Asia, but they have stopped short of offering to find their boats and bring them ashore.

An estimated 7,000 migrants, the majority of them Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, have been adrift on the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Strait for over a week with dwindling supplies of food and water after being abandoned by their smugglers. Until today’s agreement, boats that had tried to come ashore in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia had been turned away and even towed back out to sea.

Following emergency talks held in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur today, Malaysia’s foreign minister Anifah Aman announced the two regional powers would provide humanitarian assistance and temporary refuge to the migrants. But he added that the offer was contingent on the international community providing financial assistance and resettling and repatriating the migrants within one year. He also called on other countries in the region to assist.

The Philippines, one of the few countries in the region that is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, indicated on Tuesday that it would be willing to accept some of the statement migrants. However, Thailand has not agreed to take any in, despite attending today’s talks. In a after the meeting, Thailand's foreign affairs minister did commit to end push backs of the migrant boats.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration both welcomed today’s agreement but stressed the urgent need to find the boats and bring the migrants ashore.

“If they aren’t brought ashore, it’s all going to be for nothing,” commented IOM spokesperson, Joe Lowry.

The need for a search-and-rescue operation took on even greater urgency as conditions in the Andaman Sea worsened. Thailand’s meteorological department predicted that strong winds would produce waves of up to two metres on Wednesday.

Help may be at hand for some of the migrants as the Turkish navy offered one of its ships already in the region to help with search and rescue efforts.

Over 400 migrants on one boat were rescued by fishermen and brought ashore to Indonesia’s Aceh Province on Wednesday morning. Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an NGO that monitors the movements of Rohingya refugees between Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, has been in phone contact with the people on the boat since last week and said that they had previously been pushed back out to sea by the Malaysian navy.

“They’re just now eating their first proper meal,” she told IRIN.

Commenting on today’s agreement, Lewa said: “It’s good news, but of course we have to see how it will be implemented.”

She pointed out that the statement does not mention the word “refugee”, but that the use of the term “resettlement” implied recognition of the fact that the Rohingya could not be sent back to Myanmar where they are a persecuted minority that has been denied citizenship and various other basic human rights.

See: All at sea: What lies behind Southeast Asia's migrant crisis?

Neither Malaysia nor Indonesia are signatories to the Refugee Convention but both countries are already host to thousands of Rohingya, many of whom have been waiting for resettlement by UNHCR for several years.

Aegile Fernandez, who heads up Malaysian NGO, Tenaganita, which works with migrants and refugees, pointed out that UNHCR in Malaysia is already cash-strapped and stretched beyond capacity. Asylum seekers often have to wait two years just for their first refugee status determination interviews.

She questioned how the agency would be able to process the new arrivals for resettlement within one year.

The solution is not knocking on the doors of foreign countries asking them to take [the refugees] in. The solution is in Burma; they belong there. “The solution is not knocking on the doors of foreign countries asking them to take [the refugees] in,” she told IRIN. “The solution is in Burma [Myanmar]; they belong there. We now have to work seriously to get them back so they can go home and start their lives again. That’s the best solution."

So far, the government of Myanmar has refused to be drawn in to the crisis, despite growing pressure from other countries in the region to address the root causes of the exodus of Rohingya. Its officials did not attend today’s meeting in Malaysia and have indicated they will not come to a regional gathering being organised by Thailand to discuss the issue on 29 May.

Thailand is also facing criticism for failing to join Indonesia and Malaysia in offering the stranded migrants shelter.

“Let’s hope this failure of Thai leadership is temporary and that Bangkok recognizes that it should urgently revamp its stance and agree to save these desperate people on the high seas and provide them with humanitarian shelter and assistance ashore,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

ks/km/rh

Myanmar: Bay of Bengal migrant crisis: the boats and the numbers

20 May 2015 - 7:58am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 11:19 GMT

In the past 10 days, nearly 3,000 boatpeople from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been rescued or swum to shore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Several thousand more are believed to be trapped on boats at sea with little food or water in a crisis sparked by smugglers abandoning their human cargo after a Thai crackdown on long-established human-trafficking routes.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand had sparked outrage for driving off some overloaded boats. But there was a breakthrough in the crisis Wednesday when Malaysia and Indonesia said they would not longer turn away migrants.

The following is a regional summary of the current crisis:

Malaysia

More than 1,100 migrants have washed ashore in Malaysia over the past week after people-smuggling gangs dumped migrants in shallow waters off the coast of the resort island of Langkawi.

Some migrants swam to shore after harrowing month-long journeys at sea, crammed in with hundreds of other people and few supplies.

But after key regional talks Wednesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, in a joint press appearance with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, announced that "the towing and the shooing (away of boats) is not going to happen" any more.

"We also agreed to offer them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community," Anifah said.

Malaysia is also pressing Myanmar to address the mounting crisis.

Indonesia

Almost 1,800 migrants have been intercepted by Indonesian authorities or plucked from the sea by fishermen in western Aceh province -- many in a desperate condition.

On Wednesday, more than 400 Rohingya were rescued by fishermen from a green wooden boat, whose fate had captured worldwide attention after harrowing scenes emerged of desperate migrants pleading for help when the trawler was found by media floating off Thailand.

Fishermen rescued around 800 boatpeople from at least one vessel on Friday, with survivors recounting grim tales of deadly fighting between rival groups of migrants that left at least 100 dead.

The first boat to arrive off Aceh was on Sunday, May 10, when around 560 migrants were dumped in shallow waters and told to swim to shore.

The Indonesian navy also towed away one migrant vessel carrying 400 migrants last week, and said it had turned back another.

Thailand

The boat that was found off the Indonesian coast on Wednesday was the same one spotted adrift last week several kilometres off the Thai tourist resort of Koh Lipe.

Authorities dropped food and water into the sea from a helicopter, prompting a desperate scramble to retrieve the packages.

Some of the visibly-weak migrants said they wanted to go to Malaysia and the Thais fixed their broken engine and pointed them south.

Contact was lost with the boat late Saturday, raising fears for the welfare of those on board as the vessel was bounced between Thailand and Malaysia. It was eventually spotted late Tuesday by Aceh fishermen, who rescued the migrants the following day.

Chris Lewa, from the Arakan Project, which monitors migrant journeys across the Bay of Bengal, said the migrants had been repeatedly towed out of Thai waters and forced at gunpoint to leave Malaysian waters.

"They said the worst were the Malaysians who pushed them out twice. They said the second time the Malaysians came with guns and said they'd shoot at the boat if they came back again," she said.

Bay of Bengal

Coastal towns along Bangladesh's Cox's Bazaar district and Myanmar's Rakhine State are the starting point for most migrant journeys.

A trawler with 116 Malaysia-bound migrants was found adrift off a small island, near the Myanmar border.

Seven Bangladeshi nationals were rescued this week off the Myanmar coast after they were thrown from a fishing trawler packed with migrants heading to Malaysia.

Small vessels carry migrants out to larger "cargo" boats moored in international waters, which head towards Southeast Asia when full.

Lewa of Arakan Project said her contacts had told her that five cargo vessels left in early May headed east.

"These boats usually carry between 250-800 people. So there could be at least another 1,000 on their way," she said.

Two remain moored in the Bay of Bengal but are not thought to be taking on any more people at the moment, she added.

Bangladeshi police have killed several key players in the trade, while dozens of lower level people smugglers have been rounded up.

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© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

World: Peoples Under Threat 2015

20 May 2015 - 3:27am
Source: Minority Rights Group Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Introduction

By Mark Lattimer and Derek Verbakel

The 2015 release of the Peoples under Threat index marks the 10th year that Peoples under Threat has sought to identify those communities around the world that are most at risk of genocide, mass political killing or systematic violent repression.

A number of the countries which rose most sharply in the index last year, including Syria,
Yemen and Ukraine, saw escalating violence over the course of 2014–15 and the killing, in total, of tens of thousands of civilians.

This year again the publication uses current indicators from authoritative sources to highlight where the risks are highest and where they have risen most significantly over the last year. It also provides an opportunity to review risk factors over the last decade and the predictive power of the index itself.

Myanmar: Discussions focus on ceasefire, election, and land issues

20 May 2015 - 3:09am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

The nationwide ceasefire agreement, this year’s general election, and land disputes dominated discussions Monday, 18 May, when President U Thein Sein met with representatives of political parties, reported The Global New Light of Myanmar.

At the meeting, President Thein Sein expressed his willingness to begin political dialogue before the upcoming elections, to be held in late October or early November, and he pledged that any constitutional amendments prior to the election would be carried out through such dialogue.He also urged political parties to participate in the process of the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation, which was signed on 12 February, and to make efforts towards conducting a political dialogue.

In addition, a number of participants called on the Government to speed up its efforts to settle land disputes in its remaining term.

Nearly 130 politicians from 68 parties attended the meeting. Some also suggested a timeframe for holding political dialogue.

Indonesia: Fishermen wept as they rescued starving migrants off Indonesia

20 May 2015 - 2:15am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

Geulumpang, Indonesia | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 09:47 GMT

by Gianrigo Marletta

Fisherman Muchtar Ali broke down in tears when he set eyes on the overcrowded boat carrying desperate, starving Rohingya off the coast of Indonesia before going to the rescue of a vessel that has become emblematic of Asia's human-trafficking crisis.

"I was speechless," Ali told AFP, recalling the moment he saw the boatload of more than 400 Muslim migrants who are fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. "Looking at these people, me and my friends cried because they looked so hungry, so skinny."

The fisherman from staunchly Islamic Aceh province, where there has been an outpouring of sympathy as Rohingya and Bangladeshis have come ashore in recent days, said that he also felt compelled to help due to their shared religion.

"We must help fellow Muslims, how can we not help destitute people like this? It would be a big sin," he said.

The wooden green boat had drawn global attention after harrowing scenes emerged of the migrants pleading for help off Thailand last week. They were rescued by fishermen early Wednesday and brought to shore, and AFP journalists boarded the vessel soon afterwards and confirmed it was the same boat.

For the migrants, who had not been heard from for over three days, the rescue marked the end of a harrowing, four-month journey.

The Rohingya, who included 140 women and children, were "totally exhausted" after being repeatedly towed out of Thai waters and then forced at gunpoint to leave Malaysian waters, said Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project monitors migrant journeys across the Bay of Bengal.

"The worst were the Malaysians who pushed them out twice. They said the second time the Malaysians came with guns and said they’d shoot at the boat if they came back again," said Lewa, whose researchers had talked to two of the migrants.

It is the latest grim tale to emerge from the region's migrant crisis, which has seen thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis arrive in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent days after being abandoned after a Thai crackdown disrupted people-smuggling and -trafficking routes.

The three nations have also sparked outrage by turning away seaworthy vessels, although Malaysia and Indonesia relented on Wednesday and said they would take in migrants provided they could be resettled or repatriated within a year.

Malnourished migrants

As migrants have made it to shore, often malnourished after months at sea, they have recounted tales of being abused by smugglers and of deadly fights breaking out between rival groups armed with axes and knives.

The group rescued off Indonesia's Aceh early Wednesday, who join another 1,300 Rohingya and Bangladeshis who recently arrived in the province, suffered the same fate as others, pushed for days between Southeast Asian countries who were unwilling to accept them.

After last week's harrowing scenes drew global attention, the Thai navy simply reprovisioned the boat and took the vessel out to international waters with authorities insisting the migrants wanted to travel south to Malaysia.

The boat lost contact late Saturday, raising fears for the welfare of the hundreds on board.

The trawler was finally spotted late Tuesday by fishermen off the coast of Aceh. The migrants were rescued from the boat in two batches, with both brought ashore in the early hours of Wednesday.

AFP journalists later reached the boat, after setting off from the port of Geulumpang. The 30-metre (100-foot) long boat was abandoned not far from the coast, and was littered with abandoned water bottles, food containers and clothes, they said.

Fisherman Ali described how he heard from others about the stranded boat late Tuesday and arrived to help in the early hours of Wednesday.

"They came close to us, they were shouting, calling for help," he said. "We looked at the boat and -- wow -- there were so many people aboard."

He said several fishing vessels in the area were called in to help and the migrant boat was initially towed closer to shore. Fishermen then loaded the migrants into their trawlers and brought them to land.

Ali, who transported about 100 of the Rohingya, said the Acehnese and migrants could not understand each other but managed to work out they shared the same religion.

"If we said 'Islam', they would answer 'Islam, Muslim'. Those were the only two words that we exchanged," he said.

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© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Myanmar: Rakhine State - All Projects Under Implementation (Village Tract Level) March 25, 2015

20 May 2015 - 1:14am
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

Note: This map represents information as reported by organisations contributing to the MIMU 3W. Inclusion of an organisation on this map does not imply endorsement by the United Nations or its projects. Note that this map shows presence of an organisation and does not indicate the volume of assistance, the number of beneficiaries, or the extent to which needs are met or unmet.

Overview of the April 2015 3W, Rakhine – Village level / Non-IDP Response

Myanmar: Seven Bangladeshis rescued off Burma coast

19 May 2015 - 11:33pm
Source: Kaladan Press Network Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

Teknaf, Bangladesh: Seven Bangladeshis were rescued yesterday off Burma coast after they were thrown from a fishing trawler crowded with migrants heading to Malaysia, said Coast guard commander Dickson Chowdhury from Saint Martin.

“The seven men were plucked from the water in the Bay of Bengal by a boat of Burmese fishermen and handed over to local Bangladeshi fishermen.”

A Thai fishing trawler threw them into the Bay of Bengal. They are now under our custody, Dickson said.

The seven rescued Bangladeshi had informed, three boats crowded with Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingyas in the area, Dickson added.

The three boats were parked five miles south of Burma’s Sitaparokia Coast of Maungdaw Township. 68 people were in one boat and the two others have more than 100 people each,” he more added.

The outflow of trafficked migrants to Malaysia through risky sea routes seems unstoppable despite an international outcry and the ongoing anti-trafficking crackdown by law-enforcers, said a local elder named Rofique from Cox’s Bazar.

Organized human traffickers continued to smuggle Bangladeshis and Rohingyas into Malaysia by sea, security force sources said.

Meanwhile, BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) Chief Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed of 42 Battalion of Teknaf said they have intensified surveillance on different bordering points in the country to check human trafficking and smuggling deadly drug like Yaba and Phensidyl.

At present, BGB is more serious to arrest human traffickers and drug smugglers in the frontiers areas, said a trader from Teknaf.