Irregular maritime migration has been one of Thailand’s primary concerns over the years. Thailand is stepping up efforts to cooperate more closely with the international community in response to the alarming rise in the irregular movement of persons in the Indian Ocean.
The issue was discussed at the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean, hosted by Thailand on 29 May 2015 in Bangkok. Results of the meeting were summarized and reported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Representatives of the five most affected countries, namely Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, reaffirmed their full commitments to continue to provide proper humanitarian assistance to the migrants currently stranded at sea and victims of trafficking. They agreed to strengthen their cooperation on law enforcement to put an end to the activities of the criminal networks.
The meeting welcomed the efforts of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, which have intensified search and rescue operations as well as deployment of the United States aircraft in close collaboration with Malaysia and Thailand.
It also emphasized the need for relevant countries and the international community to resolve irregular maritime migration, in particular, human trafficking and people smuggling, in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.
Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance and temporary shelter to those 7,000 irregular migrants still at sea provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.
Thailand is also currently hosting 600 irregular maritime migrants, including 300 migrants recently rescued. It is also taking care of over a million refugees and displaced persons since the 1970s, with some 130,000 still remain in the country today.
The Thai government recently launched a special taskforce to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants stranded at sea. Apart from deploying two navy vessels serving as floating platforms to provide those rescued with necessary assistance and medical help while in transit, it is also deploying aircraft to patrol Thai waters, monitor movements, and assist with the humanitarian operation.
Thailand will set up a coordinating center, which will work closely with the International Organization for Migration and relevant stakeholders. The center serves as a focal point to facilitate support by the international community wishing to join hands.
Participating in the meeting were high-level representatives from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, and Thailand.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Thailand attended as participants. Representatives of Japan, Switzerland, and the United States of America attended as observers. A number of Ambassadors and Chargé d’Affaires based in Bangkok also observed the meeting.