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'Most migrants at sea are Bangladeshi'

  • Published at 09:08 am May 23rd, 2015

Indonesia has told Australia that most of the 7000 boatpeople stranded at sea in the region are labourers from Bangladesh.

Indonesian offic­ials told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that only 30% to 40% of those stranded on boats were Rohingya refugees, The Australian reported.

The matter was discussed in a foreign ministers’ meeting in Seoul on Friday.

Indones­ia’s Director-General of Multilateral Affairs Hasan Kleib said one boatload of 600 people was found to have 400 Bangladeshis aboard, according to the report.

“They [Indonesia] believe there are about 7000 people at sea (and) they think about 30% to 40% are Rohingya, the rest are Bangladeshi," The ABC News quoted Julie Bishop.

She said: "In Indon­esia’s words, the boatpeople are not asylum-seekers, they are not refugees, they are illegal labour­ers."

Doctor Ayaz Chowdhury, the president of the Bangladesh Forum for Community Engagement in Sydney, said while the Indonesia's figures were technically correct, the Bangladeshis were still in need.

"I believe what she's [Ms Bishop's] telling is true and they are the poor people of Bangladesh who do not have the economic means to have even a reasonable life in Bangladesh."

On Friday, Myanmar’s navy brought ashore 200 migrants – calling them Bangladeshis – found in a boat off its coast, after its military chief said some of the thousands of migrants that have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia this month are pretending to be Rohingya Muslims to get UN aid.

The international community is slowly stepping forward with offers of assistance to help alleviate Southeast Asia’s migrant crisis.

On Wednesday, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to provide temporary shelter to the estimated 7,000 migrants stranded at sea.

However, both countries insisted that the migrants would need to be resettled elsewhere by the international community within a year.

The United States stepped forward Wednesday, saying it is willing to take in some Rohingya refugees as part of the international efforts.