Parliamentarians call on ASEAN ministers to address root causes of migrant crisis at KL meeting

ASEAN LogoJAKARTA – ASEAN home ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow must take firm action to combat human trafficking, protect vulnerable asylum seekers, and address the root causes of the continuing migrant crisis, including the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.

The emergency meeting, announced this week, is intended to address the issue of irregular migration. It comes just over a month after representatives from 17 nations convened in Bangkok to discuss the migrant crisis that captured headlines in May.

“A month after the meeting in Bangkok, little has been achieved,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of parliament from Malaysia. “Vulnerable asylum seekers and economic migrants remain without basic provisions, and human traffickers continue to conduct their despicable work unpunished.”

Parliamentarians stressed that ASEAN ministers attending the meeting in Kuala Lumpur must develop a plan of action to address the immediate humanitarian needs of rescued migrants—including providing adequate food and shelter—and to provide asylum seekers with access to refugee screening procedures. ASEAN states should also improve coordination on search and rescue operations for migrants still stranded at sea.

“This crisis is far from over,” Santiago warned. “Focusing only on policing borders and attempting to address this issue as a simple matter of law and order would be shortsighted. Cracking down on human trafficking rings must be a component of the regional response, but ASEAN must also address the needs of their victims.”

APHR reiterated its call for ASEAN states to ratify the UN refugee convention and to develop a binding regional agreement on human trafficking, as well as a regional refugee framework.

APHR also underlined the need for ASEAN to press the Myanmar government to address the underlying causes of the refugee crisis by ending state-sponsored persecution of minorities, including Rohingya, allowing humanitarian access to remote parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and cracking down on hate speech and incitement to violence.

“If ASEAN governments are really seeking a solution to this issue, they cannot ignore the root causes of the outflow of asylum seekers from Myanmar: the discriminatory government policies that promote and perpetuate broad-based persecution of Rohingya and other minorities,” Santiago added.