RISE: Refugees, survivors and ex-detainees is the first organisation in Australia governed and run by members of the refugee and asylum seeker community in Australia. Our organisation consists of more than 200 members from over 30 communities in Australia. Among them are members of the Rohingya community in Australia. We have sent a request letter to Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra on 20 Feb 2013, calling for urgent intervention on the matter of Rohingya refugees in Thailand.
Due to ongoing genocidal attacks against the Rohingya people and additional contributing factors to their confinement and starvation by local authorities and the central government in Myanmar, the number of Rohingya people fleeing by boat has increased in the last few months. Boats landing in southern Thailand have increased to more than 2000 although the official estimate is only about 1700 from January 2013.
RISE is therefore shocked to hear about cases of severely traumatised and oppressed Rohingya refugee survivors who have been subjected to further trauma after being arrested in Thailand in the past weeks as they have arrived in the south of Thailand.
RISE is also shocked by the human trafficking measures used against the Rohingya refugees during such a humanitarian crisis. It should be noted that currently, trafficking out of Rohingya is the only alternative to persecution for Rohingya people.
RISE has received news from reliable sources, that these Rohingya men, women and children have been separated and sent to more than 20 different locations, made up mostly of Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) in Thailand. UNHCR pays regular visits to these refugees, but are yet to conduct refugee processing and determination of their status.
While Thai NGOs and governmental organisations are now providing food and other necessities there is still a huge shortfall in provision of services. Rohingya women and children placed in community-based social centres, still face a lack of adequate amenities and wash-rooms. Meanwhile, the Rohingya men held separately, in Thai IDCs are subject to overcrowding and confinement – conditions which can have serious health implications.
RISE welcomes the Thai national human rights commission (NHRC) for greater advocacy work for the rights of Rohingya as well as recent humanitarian steps taken by the Yingluck government regarding some newly arrived Rohingya boat arrivals. However, while the Thai Immigration Act regards Rohingya refugee migrants as illegal, RISE wishes to call upon all parties concerned to take appropriate measures to end this crisis.
RISE strongly recommends that the UNHCR regularise its process of recognition of persecuted de-facto stateless Rohingya refugees who face persecution due to their race and religion, and that the Australian government with other signatories to the UN refugee convention include this portion of refugees into its intake quota.