“Nope, nope, nope.”
That is the blunt and immediate answer given by Prime Minister Tony Abbott when questioned about the possibility of temporarily employing regional resettlement as a means of aiding global efforts to resolve the growing Rohingya migrant crisis unfolding in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand combined to spark global outcry earlier this week after jointly closing their borders to asylum seekers arriving via boat, instead towing boats back out to sea and leaving them there – not at all dissimilar to current Australian Federal policy.
Malaysia and Indonesia have since backed down, allowing thousands of refugees into the country under the condition that international agencies work to repatriate them within twelve months. Despite this, officials estimate that around 7000 people remain stranded at sea.
The crisis is largely due to fleeing members of the Rohingya people – who despite some historical conjecture, have lived in Myanmar for generations. But the Burmese government continues to refuse them citizenship, as well as some basic human rights, leading to widespread persecution and abuse. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that some 140,000 Rohingya people currently live in what is effectively squalor – poorly maintained camps in the west of the country – where as much as 70% have no access to safe water or sanitation. Mob attacks by Buddhists – a constant threat for the Rohingya people – caused a similar mass fleeing back in 2012.
Countries across the world have declared intent to allow regional resettlement for the refugees in order to help ease the crisis, including the United States who have resettled some 1,000 Rohingya people since last October.
And yet, Tony Abbott’s response?
You almost have to admire such a dogged determination to stick to a plan in the face of criticism, all reasonable advice, a lot of international law and convention, compassion, and common human decency.
Photo: Stefan Postles via Getty Images.