Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Philippines offers refuge to desperate migrants trapped on boats

Government in Manila becomes first in the region to offer safe haven to thousands of refugees and migrants stranded on Asia’s seas

The Philippines has signalled it is ready to take in thousands of migrants who are stranded on Asia’s seas, the first country to offer shelter after its south-east Asian neighbours blocked them from entering.

Manila, a signatory to the United Nation’s refugee convention, said it would help as it denied a local report claiming that the Philippines planned to push back boats carrying some 8,000 people fleeing persecution in Burma and poverty in Bangladesh.

“The Philippines has extended humanitarian assistance to ... ‘boat people’ and had even established a processing centre for Vietnamese travellers in the 70s,” said Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for the president, Benigno Aquino.

“We shall continue to do our share in saving lives under existing and long-standing mechanisms pursuant to our commitments under the [UN] convention.”

It would be a long and unlikely journey for the migrants – who are believed to be in the region of the Andaman Sea – to make it to the Philippines on their rickety boats with little food and fuel.