Australia has offered another A$5 million in humanitarian aid to potential illegal migrant populations in Myanmar and Bangladesh, in addition to A$6 million committed earlier.
The new aid was announced today, 29 May, to coincide with a conference in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss irregular migration in the Indian Ocean, in an attempt to resolve the boat refugee crisis in ASEAN.
More than 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi people were believed to have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand since early March.
International groups have projected that there could be thousands more at sea, at the mercy of illegal smugglers and at risk of death.
“Today we announce an additional $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Burma’s Rakhine State and the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, building on the $6 million for humanitarian assistance to Burma announced last week,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in a statement.
The pledge brings Australia’s total humanitarian assistance to Burma to over $20 million since 2012.
“Australia remains committed to playing our part to address this regional challenge and has provided over $170 million since 2000 through the International Organization for Migration for victims of people smuggling in Indonesia.”
However, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has recently been criticised for refusing to let more Rohingyas into Australia, to ease the burden on the three frontline countries.
Thailand’s Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimaprakorn had noted at the Bangkok conference that the problem must be addressed at source – “The root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed,” he was reported as saying.
Human rights groups have been pushing for a stronger response from countries in the region to resolve the boat refugee situation, and for Myanmar to end the repression of Rohingyas.
Adapted from media reports.