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UNHCR : Plan of Action-Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  •  June 3, 2015

image-1An estimated 63,000 people are believed to have traveled by boat in an irregular and dangerous way in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in 2014. Another 25,000 joined them in the first quarter of 2015. They are part of a complex, mixed migratory movement composed of refugees, stateless people and economic migrants. Unregulated and, until recently, inconspicuous, the scale of the movement has tripled since 2012 and the level and scale of abuse suffered by voyagers is unprecedented in recent times.

Men, women and children risk being starved, constrained, beaten and forcibly separated. Women and girls are particularly at risk of sexual violence. Previously once ashore but now also on smugglers’ boats, they are detained, sequestered and held for ransom. Non-payment can result in death. What may have begun as a voluntary journey is transformed into something no one would choose. The scale of deaths is unknown but, as the recent discovery of mass graves in smugglers’ camps attests, it is likely to be even higher than the 1.2 percent of travelers estimated to perish from disease or mistreatment.

Only a coordinated effort by the source, transit and destination countries in the region can provide protection for those who need it and successfully prosecute the perpetrators of this misery and death. Smugglers and traffickers are criminals and should be treated as such. The people they exploit and abuse should not. A protection-sensitive approach will work in tandem with strong criminal law enforcement and security measures, but neither will work by themselves.

Only through collective action can a response be achieved that meets concerns over national security, the orderly management of migration and borders and the human security of the people affected without creating or exacerbating tensions between States.

Set out below are 10 concrete steps that governments in this region could take immediately to respond to the challenge confronting them in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. They are organized into actions which address: (I) the sea journey and disembarkation; (II) reception, treatment upon arrival and regional responsibility-sharing; and (III) the root causes.

They build upon the Regional Cooperation Framework at the heart of the Bali Process, the already substantial efforts of national and international actors in the region and the fundamental objectives of ASEAN.

Download the full proposal paper here.

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This post is in: Aid, Children and Youth, Displacement, Ethnic Nationalities, Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Resources

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