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Thai fishermen give supplies to migrants on a boat drifting 17km (10 miles) off the coast of Koh Lipe(Reuters)

HOME: Turning boats away is inhumane

Thai fishermen give supplies to migrants on a boat drifting 17km (10 miles) off the coast of Koh Lipe(Reuters)
Thai fishermen give supplies to migrants on a boat drifting 17km (10 miles) off the coast of Koh Lipe(Reuters)

By Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME)

Singapore should demonstrate leadership to the humanitarian crisis that is happening with the Rohingyas, who have been victims of systemic persecution, discrimination and rampant abuse. We also urge the Myanmar government to stop persecuting them to prevent the mass exodus of asylum seekers.

Even though Singapore did not ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, under international law the Singapore government has to adhere to the principle of “non-refoulement” – not to expel anyone back to places where they may experience persecution.

The crisis involving the Rohingyas is one that has to be resolved by ASEAN and not one country alone. But for Singapore to say that it is not in a position to accept refugees goes against the values of cooperation and humanitarianism and we urge the government to re-consider its decision.

Singapore need not accept and re-settle all who seek political asylum. It can work with other ASEAN governments and civil society, both locally and abroad, to ensure that the asylum seekers have temporary housing, food and medical attention while their cases are processed by the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The solution should not be to turn these boats away as the Singapore government did in 2012 when it refused entry to 40 stranded asylum seekers after their vessel sank off the coast of Myanmar on December 5 and sought to dock in Singapore waters.

An ASEAN inter-agency framework for action should be established and all countries should work together to resolve this crisis in a sustainable way. But even as this framework is being put in place, rather than abandoning them to their deaths, Singapore should do its part and provide them with protection.

This statement has the support of the following individuals:

Lynn Lee, Terry Xu, Jennifer Teo, Rachel Zeng, Joshua Chiang, Shelley Thio, Roy Ngerng,