This is the sort of news that makes me want to swear loudly, with several curse words. Sh**, damn and f*** it!
It also makes me very sad.
For those of you who don’t know, over the weekend it came to light that hundreds – thousands – of refugees, mostly Rohingya fleeing persecution in their home country of Myanmar (which used to be known as Burma), as well as some Bangladeshis, have boarded boats and set sail for other countries, only to be turned back at their shores. Thailand. Malaysia. Indonesia. All refuse to take them in.
By the by, the Rohingya, Muslims, are one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world. There are 1.1 million of them in Myanmar, where they have lived for generations. However, they are stateless as Myanmar calls them “Bengalis”, implying they are immigrants from Bangladesh. Almost 140,000 were displaced in clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012. (See the amnesty international website linked below for more information.)
Abbott – and his sycophants at the propaganda machine known as The Australian – have taken credit for this new policy. He said, “I don’t apologise in any way for the action that Australia has taken to preserve safety at sea by turning boats around where necessary … And if other countries choose to do that, frankly that is almost certainly absolutely necessary if the scourge of people smuggling is to be beaten.”
I am sickened by it. Populist, bigoted, thug of a man. That ^ is not the sort of words we need to hear right now. We need action. Humanitarian action, to help these people!
Just last week there were calls asking for regional dialogue – Thailand has said it will host talks in Bangkok on May 29 for 15 countries to discuss the emergency. But unless all – including Myanmar – come to the table, not much will be achieved. That’s not likely if this response from Myanmar is anything to go by: “a senior official from the president’s office said Myanmar had not received an [official] invitation for the Bangkok meeting and would not take part anyway if the word Rohingya was used“. (ABC News website, emphasis mine.)
A coordinated response from regional governments over what to do with some 2,500 migrants who have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia over the past week or some 5,000 others still stranded at sea needs to be decided. This includes Australia.
Indonesian fishermen in Aceh have been rescuing people – but the mayor says they’re running out of supplies to care for them, given the money used comes from a fund meant to help their own people. The solution cannot be to simply give them supplies and tow them to someone else’s waters (like what’s happening now with the navies of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia).
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister has urged Myanmar to take responsibility and look at any “humanitarian aspect for them to solve this matter internally”.
The UN has weighed in, also, saying that “the deadly pattern of migration across the Bay of Bengal would continue unless Myanmar ended discrimination”.
“The need for effective regional action to combat the crisis is clear, yet our leaders have consistently failed to act,” said Charles Santiago, chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and a member of parliament in Malaysia. “They hide behind the arcane and ultimately destructive policy of non-interference, repeating the demonstrably false claim that the Myanmar government’s persecution of Rohingya is an ‘internal affair’,” he wrote in the Jakarta Post on Sunday.
It’s also horrifying in another fashion, for it has echoes of the past. And I’m not talking about the 80s. Some seventy years ago, a similar situation happened, with a boatload of Jews on ship called the St. Louis. It was later known as the Voyage of the Damned. The people at overland explain better than I ever could: https://overland.org.au/2015/05/the-last-time-they-turned-back-the-boats/
A bit of a stretch? Maybe. But maybe not.
I’m young and quite idealistic, I know. But this is just simple common sense. I wasn’t old enough to see/ hear the discussion in the 70s/80s. But I do know that a humane regional solution was found then. Why, why, does it have to look like this now?
It makes me sick at heart and so angry.
This is not the way to treat refugees. They’re people too. Desperate, starving, defenceless.
I think we can add, between “Jews” and “me”, “refugees”.
http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/comments/35290/ (Rohingya: the most persecuted refugees in the world)