Monday, May 18, 2015

Solidarity and compassion

While governments around the region have refused to receive what is thought to be thousands of migrants from Burma and Bangladesh stranded and starving in the Andaman Sea, the fishermen of Indonesia have stepped up to fill the humanitarian void.

“We helped them because they needed help,” said Mansur, 38. “What is more human than that?” He said he would do the same again if faced with another similar situation. 

Suryadi, who only uses one name, from the fishermen association in Langsa, Aceh, said: “We helped out of solidarity. If we find someone in the ocean we have to help them no matter who they are. The police did not like us helping but we could not avoid it. Our sense of humanity was higher. So we just helped with the limited resources that we had at the time.”

Six hundred and seventy-seven migrants were brought ashore late last Thursday by Mansur and his fellow fishermen. The fishermen laboured together, pulling the migrants from the sea and transferring them from boat to boat.

Andreas Harsono, from Human Rights Watch in Jakarta, said the fishermen were offering assistance that official channels had failed to provide. “The fact that these fishermen are helping these people shows that they have a better humanitarian understanding than government officials in Jakarta,” he said. Harsono said that in Aceh, a province that in the past was wracked by a decades-long separatist conflict, people understood suffering and the value of compassion.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

The Philippine government has said it is willing to open the country's doors to minority Rohingya migrants who have fled Myanmar and Bangladesh, saying that it is committed to the United Nations pledge to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

"Let us not fall short of providing humanitarian relief and assistance that is asked of us, as we pride ourselves to be a compassionate and hospitable people," Senator Paolo Aquino said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"We call on the proper international agencies to process the legal issues immediately for the welfare of the boat people," said Aquino, a cousin and political ally of President Benigno Aquino.

The statement came after Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday that the country has an obligation to admit and protect asylum seekers, even when the refugees do not have documents to prove their status.
“If there are boat people who come to us seeking the protection of our government, there is a process, there are existing mechanisms on how to handle these refugees or asylum seekers,” de Lima said in a statement.