Malaysia arrests Rohingya in trafficking crackdown

Malaysia on April 5 detained 202 suspected Rohingya Muslims who arrived illegally by boat, a top official said, raising fresh fears that people smugglers may be back in action. (Handout/Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency/AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2020

Malaysia arrests Rohingya in trafficking crackdown

  • Malaysia is a favored destination for the group from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, who have long complained of persecution
  • In another incident earlier this month, 60 Rohingya died on a crammed boat stranded in the Bay of Bengal for two months

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has arrested two Rohingya for alleged human-trafficking, authorities said Tuesday, as they ramp up efforts to stop members of the Muslim minority coming to the country amid coronavirus fears.
Malaysia is a favored destination for the group from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, who have long complained of persecution, as it is a Muslim-majority country that already has a sizeable Rohingya diaspora.
But authorities have strengthened maritime patrols in an effort to stop the illegal arrival of Rohingya due to fears they could be infected with the virus, and a boat was turned away by the navy last week.
Another boatload of Rohingya did make it to shore on the island of Langkawi in early April, and officials said the pair detained last week was believed to have been involved in that case.
In another incident earlier this month, 60 Rohingya died on a crammed boat stranded in the Bay of Bengal for two months, which survivors said had been turned away from Thailand and Malaysia.
The latest arrests were brothers aged 31 and 34, officials said.
“Authorities seized a notebook detailing information on the money collected from their human-smuggling business related to the April 5 arrival of 202 Rohingya Muslims in Langkawi,” said Zulinda Ramly, deputy director with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Each migrant paid 15,000 ringgit ($3,400) to be brought into Malaysia, she said.
The coast guard is hunting other syndicate members, Malaysians and foreigners, accused of helping migrants illegally enter the country.
Malaysia’s tougher stance in seeking to stop the arrival of boatloads of Rohingya has alarmed rights groups, who fear several other vessels may be at sea between Bangladesh and the Southeast Asian nation.
Rohingya often begin their journeys in Bangladesh, where many of the minority live in overcrowded camps after fleeing a military crackdown in their homeland.


UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

The Royal Navy has been deployed as recently as January 2019 in an attempt to reduce the number of refugees and migrants arriving to the UK via the English Channel. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2020

UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

  • French parliamentarian called the plans a “political measure” that would not help the situation.
  • Roughly 4,000 people have made the dangerous trip from France to the UK so far this year.

LONDON: The UK has announced it will use the military to prevent migrants entering the country from France via the English Channel, but the plans have drawn criticism from French politicians and rights groups in the UK.

More than 4,000 people have successfully made the crossing so far this year, and many of those have done so in small and overburdened boats.

Responding to the escalating number of people attempting the journey, the Home Office officially requested last week that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) assist the Border Force in its duties.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her department was “working to make this route unviable” and announced on Sunday the appointment of a former Royal Marine to manage the government’s response to the crossings.

In response to Patel’s request, the MoD announced on Monday that it would send a Royal Air Force plane with spotters on board to assist the Border Force in its operations in the English Channel.

But the issue has caused tension between the UK and France.

The French National Assembly member for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, slammed the decision to use the military to prevent crossings as a useless “political measure.”

He said: “What is the British navy going to do if it sees a small boat? Is it going to shoot the boat? Is it going to enter French waters? It’s a political measure to show some kind of muscle but technically speaking it won’t change anything.”

Paris has also requested that London provides £30 million to fund French efforts to prevent migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing from their side.

Patel’s decision to use the military to prevent Channel crossings has also drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

Bella Sankey, a barrister and director of Detention Action said: “The home secretary’s hysterical plea to the navy is as irresponsible as it is ironic. Pushbacks at sea are unlawful and would threaten human lives.

“No civilised country can even consider this, let alone a country with a tradition of offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution,” she added.

Migration has long been a hot button issue in British politics, and this will not be the first time authorities have used the military to enforce migration policies.

In January 2019, the Royal Navy sent three ships to the Channel to prevent migrant crossings, saying at the time that the deployment would “help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey.”