HUMAN Rights Watch has asked the Philippine government not to turn a blind eye to the condition of the Rohingya boat people.
“We would like to remind President Aquino that the Philippines ratified the 1951 refugees convention and its protocols, which specify that the state cannot just turn away even illegal refugees, as well as the Palermo convention and its protocols, which provide for the protection of trafficked persons,” said Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia.
In a statement, Kine said that ignoring the Rohingya migrants could do severe damage to the reputation of the country.
“The Philippines government distinguished itself during and in the aftermath of the Vietnam War by showing compassion and adherence to international law by assisting the boat people from Vietnam to find safe harbor and eventually refugee status in other countries.
“The Philippines government has a choice – provide a helping hand to citizens of a neighboring country in observance of the Philippines’s international legal obligations or deliberately violate those commitments at the risk of the lives of Rohingya boat people,” Kine added.
According to Kine, the plight of the Rohingya, whether they have or not in their possession documents that attest to the legality of their entry to the Philippines, demands nothing less.
“The Philippines can and should do better for those desperate men, women and children who have taken to sea due to increasingly abusive conditions.”
United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon earlier urged leaders in Southeast Asia to act on Rohingya crisis.
A Burmese minority group, Rohingya people fled their homeland to avoid extreme political persecution and poverty.