MALAYSIA (馬來西亞) and Indonesia (印尼) said on Wednesday they would offer shelter to 7,000 “boat people” adrift at sea in rickety boats but, anxious not to encourage a fresh influx, made it clear that their assistance was temporary and they would take no more.
More than 3,000 migrants have landed so far this month in Malaysia and Indonesia. Together with Thailand (泰國), they have opted for a ‘not-in-my-backyard’ policy in response, pushing away many boats that approached their shores despite appeals from the United Nations (聯合國) to take them in.
While the latest statement signalled a shift in policy by Malaysia and Indonesia, that would allow the migrants to come ashore, they underlined that the international community also had a responsibility to help them deal with the crisis.
The migrants are Rohingya (羅興亞族 ) Muslims (穆斯林) – men, women and children who fled persecution and poverty at home or were abducted by traffickers, and now face sickness and starvation at sea.
“What we have clearly stated is that we will take in only those people in the high sea,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (阿尼法) said. “But under no circumstances would we be expected to take each one of them if there is an influx of others.”
Malaysia and Indonesia said in a joint statement they would offer “resettlement and repatriation”, a process that would be “done in a year by the international community”. The United Nations welcomed the move and urged that people be brought to shore “without delay”.
Thai officials have said authorities will check on migrants at sea and allow the sick to come ashore for medical attention, but the country has stopped short of saying it would allow other migrants to disembark.
(Reuters, 20 May 2015)