Half of Stranded Migrants Are Now On Dry Land: IOM

By BenarNews Staff
Rohingya men pray at a newly set up confinement area in Bayeun, Indonesia, May 22, 2015.

More than 3,600 migrants have come ashore this month in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

“Over half of those originally estimated to be at sea are now on dry land, some for the first time in almost four months,” an IOM statement said. “Just under half are from Bangladesh; the remainder claim to be Rohingya.”

But “there are still thousands of highly vulnerable people at sea,” IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing warned. “Every hour that they are at sea is an hour too long.”

Myanmar on Friday said its navy had rescued some 200 people off two boats found in territorial waters, according to news reports.

Malaysian naval vessels launched their first search and rescue operations, and the U.S. military prepared to deploy air patrols in support of those efforts, the Associated Press reported.

Here is a breakdown of how many migrants have landed on shores within the region, where they are from and their status.


Between May 10 and May 20, fishermen in westernmost Aceh province rescued a total of 1,866 migrants.

According to regional government officials, 773 of the arrivals are from Bangladesh and 660 are Rohingya Muslims.

The 433 migrants rescued Wednesday have yet to be identified as Bangladeshis or Rohingyas.

The migrants are being held in temporary shelters in North Aceh and East Aceh regencies. Indonesia has indicated it will likely repatriate Bangladeshi nationals and refer the Rohingya Muslims to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


According to the state-run Bernama news agency, 1,158 migrants came ashore May 11 at Langkawi island. They are currently being held in detention centers in Kedah state.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian government announced that it would deport 680 Bangladeshis in this group and that it would hand the others – Rohingya Muslims – to UNHCR for processing as potential refugees.


Thailand, which will host an international summit on human trafficking and illegal migration on May 29, is not allowing migrant boats to land.

Earlier in the month, it launched a crackdown on the trafficking business and stiff new regulation of fishing boats.
After the bodies of 32 migrants were found in the southern Thai jungle in early May, authorities raided dozens of people-smuggling camps in mountains along the Thai-Malaysia border.

So far, 334 migrants have been arrested. Of these, 191 are trafficking victims and the rest are illegal migrants, according to Thai officials. They are being held in Songkhla province.

The nationalities of the migrants have yet to be identified.


Up to 2,000 migrants are still at sea off the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to the IOM and UNHCR.

The surge in illegal maritime migration is due to persecution of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and the difficulty Bangladeshis face in migrating legally to work abroad, experts say.

In November 2012, Malaysia agreed to take in 50,000 Bangladeshi workers, but the total number legally dispatched in 2014 was just 5,134, government figures show.

“Bangladeshi workers can’t migrate legally through the government-to-government system. That’s why there has been a surge in trafficking,” Tasneem Siddiqui, a professor at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.