ASEAN puts migration, trafficking on agenda

Asean’s human rights branch has listed regional guidelines for migration and human trafficking at the top its agenda for next year, the group’s chair said in a statement ahead of meetings in Kuala Lumpur this week.

By Laignee Barron   |   Thursday, 06 August 2015

Malaysia’s foreign minister, Seri Anifah Aman, told state media that irregular movements of people throughout the region, including the Rohingya, would be a “priority” for discussion at the 48th ASEAN Ministers Meeting, which began on August 3.

He also emphasised Malaysia’s role in the response to the recent swell of asylum seekers and economic migrants trapped on human traffickers’ boats in the Andaman Sea in May.

Malaysia and Indonesia are currently sheltering some 7000 people from Myanmar and Bangladesh rescued from the boats, he said.

The Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisation also called on the prime minister to use the ministerial meeting as a platform to resolve lingering issues over the region’s long-extant Rohingya trafficking routes.

“If the Myanmar [government] recognise[s] the ethnic group, the issues will be solved and the Rohingya refugees will be able to return to the country as legal citizens,” Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, president of the organisation, told state media.

He also suggested that the Malaysian government provide temporary ID cards to the asylum seekers so the children could attend public primary and secondary schools.

The Islamic Organisation’s president said there are at least 8000 Rohingya children currently in Malaysia, most of whom receive no schooling.

Before agreeing to provide shelter to impoverished people rescued from boats in May, Malaysia was already hosting more than 141,000 asylum applicants from Myanmar, including nearly 46,000 Rohingya, according to United Nations Refugee Agency’s April 2015 estimates.

The chair of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and Malaysia’s representative to the group, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, said that human trafficking is a priority for the commission.

The ASEAN human rights arm, which has been criticised for largely avoiding contentious issues in the region in the past, submitted its annual report, a five-year plan for 2016-2020 and its priority programs to the foreign ministers during the convention, according to a statement issued yesterday.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi yesterday proposed strengthening the AICHR, especially in regards to migrant workers, according to the Jakarta Post. She also suggested the ASEAN ministers issue a joint statement about how the bloc will handle migrant worker protections under greater economic integration intended at the end of this year.