Tuesday, December 23, 2014

UNHCR report: Straits of Malacca preferred route for refugees’ illegal travel




The UNHCR said refugees paid smugglers for such illegal trips on boats typically having capacities of five to 55 people. — Reuters file picKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — The Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia has emerged as the favoured new pathway for refugees seeking to be illegally smuggled out of their countries, The Jakarta Post reported.

In the Indonesian paper’s report yesterday, it cited findings by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) claiming that refugees either use the route to get to Australia or to reach Indonesia and Malaysia.

“Such a journey [via Malacca] has consisted of day-long trips on boats and traverses one of two routes, from Klang, Malaysia to Medan, Indonesia, and from Johor Baru, Malaysia, to Batam or Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia,” UNHCR was quoted saying in the report.

The UNHCR also found that refugees paid smugglers for such illegal trips on boats typically having capacities of five to 55 people.

For adult refugees, the typical sum for travel to Indonesia is between US$300 (RM1,050) and US$700 (RM2,450), while a trip to Australia costs between US$1,500 (RM5,240) and US$3,000 (RM10,480).

The price is slashed by half for children, while family packages are also available, The Jakarta Post reported.

The UNHCR reportedly said Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have traditionally used either the Bay of Bengal or the Andaman Sea routes, but have opted for the Straits of Malacca as it is deemed safer.

Many Rohingya refugees attempt to reach Australia through boats that depart from Indonesia, but often have to renew their attempts when they are blocked by Australia or experience weather difficulties and engine failures, the Indonesian paper said.

The Jakarta Post also said that many Indonesian migrant workers illegally seeking employment in Malaysia similarly use the Straits of Malacca.

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