Thailand is playing host to a special meeting on irregular migration in the Indian Ocean on Friday, to address the burgeoning humanitarian crisis involving Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants.

BANGKOK: A joint meeting on migrant crisis in the Indian Ocean will take place in the Thai capital of Bangkok on Friday (May 29), where representatives from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and observers from international organisations discuss the worsening situation that involves thousands of lives stranded at sea.

As Southeast Asia face a growing humanitarian crisis, government leaders from the region are trying to come up with solutions for the root cause of such a migration, in Bangkok.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) praised the joint response and attempts to synchronise efforts through Friday’s special meeting.

However, they also pointed out the need for a screening process to distinguish between economic migrants from Bangladesh, refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and those who can be considered victims of human trafficking.

The long-term goal is be to find a sustainable solution to the ongoing crisis, after thousands of such migrants were left stranded on smugglers’ boats in the Indian Ocean.

Although there have been talks on resettlement – either in Asia or further afield – the UNHCR believes that resettling such high numbers is unrealistic and that many will likely be returned to Myanmar.

“All of these issues, citizenship issues, development issues need to be addressed and I think there is talk of a solidarity fund to invest in economic development, social development in Rakhine state. So we’re interested to see what will come out of this meeting,” said Senior Regional Public Information Officer of the UNHCR Vivian Tan.

While ASEAN’s unity in addressing the immediate crisis is encouraging, the UNHCR still hopes the Friday meeting will bring every member even closer to solving the situation that prompted this crisis in the first place.

– CNA/pp