The first guest blog from David Hammond, CEO & Founder of Human Rights At Sea. Human rights at Sea (HRAS) continues to work directly with organizations in SE Asia in the ongoing matters of migrants abandoned at sea by traffickers.
In the last 48 hours, alongside Quintel Intelligence based in London and the leading news agency Reuters, HRAS has been seeking to identify the location of the boats containing migrants cast adrift.
On Tuesday, the assembled HRAS team was provided with the mobile numbers for two boats which they established to be genuine and though third-party support were able to identify the location of at least one of the vessels in the vicinity of Lipe Island or Ko Lipe, at the northern end of the Malacca Straits.
Ko Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, in Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. All information was passed to Thai authorities by regional co-ordinating sources. Today the vessel in question was located by the Royal Thai Navy.
Reuters released the following news statement: BANGKOK, May 14 (Reuters) - Thailand has found a boat drifting off its west coast carrying 300 migrants but has refused to grant it permission to land, a senior police officer said on Thursday. "We declined them entry to the country but we gave them food and water to adhere to our human rights obligations," regional police official Major General Puttichat Akhachan told Reuters.
The boat was found 17 km (10 miles) off the coast of the southern island of Koh Lipe, he said. Migrants on the boat did not want to land in Thailand but instead wanted to go to Malaysia or Indonesia, said Somchai Na Bangchang, a rear admiral in the Royal Thai Navy. "We did not push back the boat or kick them out," Somchai said.
Several thousand migrants have been abandoned at sea by smugglers following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has warned the situation could develop into a "massive humanitarian crisis". Founder of Human Rights at Sea, David Hammond, said: “Human Rights at Sea will continue to support all those organisations who have requested our contribution for as long as necessary. I am grateful to our extensive network of contacts for reacting so quickly with many long hours being put in to try to locate such vessels.”
“We were delighted to hear that the Royal Thai Navy had located the vessel, but remain very concerned as to the ultimate fate of those onboard and the current positions being taken by neighboring states in the handling of these persons who were previously in distress at sea and may soon be once again”.
“My thanks also to those members of the shipping community who indicated that crews would remain vigilant en-route through the area. This is a perfect example of shipping bodies reacting quickly to a call from maritime human rights organisations such as ourselves”.
Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has been independently developed for the benefit of the international community for matters and issues concerning human rights in the maritime environment. Its aim is to explicitly raise awareness, implementation and accountability of human rights provisions throughout the maritime environment, especially where they are currently absent, ignored or being abused.