Hundreds Rescued as Migrant Deal Reached

Hundreds Rescued as Migrant Deal ReachedHundreds Rescued as Migrant Deal Reached

In a potential breakthrough in Southeast Asia’s humanitarian crisis, Indonesia and Malaysia offered Wednesday to provide temporary shelter to thousands of migrants stranded at sea after weeks of saying they weren’t welcome. Meanwhile, more than a dozen fishermen rescued hundreds of migrants off Indonesian coast.

“Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those 7,000 irregular migrants at sea,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said after a three-way meeting with counterparts from Indonesia and Thailand, AP said in a report.

However they appealed for international help, saying the crisis was a global, not a regional, problem.

The two countries “also agreed to provide them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.”

“This is not an ASEAN problem,” Anifah said, referring to the 10-nation grouping of Southeast Asian countries. “This is a problem for the international community. We are talking about a humanitarian crisis.”

Thailand would not offer shelter but would provide humanitarian assistance, he said. Thailand has previously said it cannot afford to take any more migrants since it is already overburdened by tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar.

Anifah avoided answering questions on whether the refugees would be accepted even if the international community did not cooperate, but to another question said they would be given shelter “immediately.”

 Hundreds Rescued

A team of Indonesian fishermen rescued more than 430 migrants who were stranded at sea for weeks and brought them to safety in the Strait of Malacca, off the coast of Aceh Province.

More than 3,000 ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis have already landed in the three countries in recent weeks, although some boats have been turned away.

Most of the migrants are believed to be victims of human traffickers, who recruit them in Myanmar’s Sittwe Province and in Bangladesh with promises to give them safe passage to Malaysia, and jobs once they land there.

It was unclear if all those rescued Wednesday were on one boat or had come from several. An initial batch of 102 people were the first brought to shore in the village of Simpang Tiga in Indonesia’s eastern Aceh province, Sulaiman and other rescuers said.

“They were suffering from dehydration, they are weak and starving,” Khairul Nove, head of Langsa Search and Rescue Agency in Aceh province. Among the 102 passengers were 26 women and 31 children, he said.

The crisis emerged this month as governments in the region began cracking down on human trafficking. Some captains of trafficking boats abandoned their vessels - and hundreds of migrants - at sea. Prior to the arrival of new migrants Wednesday, about 3,000 had reached land in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, in recent weeks.

 EU in Migrant Quota Battle

The European Union’s plan to relocate asylum seekers in Europe is in danger of being killed off by reluctant member states as 10 countries have signaled opposition less than a week after it was announced.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the plan is “madness” and France’s Manuel Valls called it “a moral and ethical mistake.”

Other countries, including Spain and Poland, said they oppose the way the EU wants to distribute asylum seekers - according to population size, wealth, and the number of migrants already hosted.

Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, declared on Monday that his country is “ready to fulfill all the support efforts asked of us, but this should be proportionate, fair and realistic.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said last week she is “in favor of voluntary decisions on this issue.”

Around 51,000 migrants have entered Europe by crossing the Mediterranean this year, with 30,500 going via Italy. About 1800 have drowned in the attempt – according to the UN refugee agency.