May 26, 2015

Mass graves and signs of torture discovered in Malaysia as the Asia migrant crisis worsens

Human traffickers are believed to have been holding migrants for ransom in jungle camps in Malaysia, close to the Thai border, according to a new report from the BBC.

The Malaysian authorities have begun exhuming bodies in 139 grave sites believed to belong to some of the thousands of migrants who have recently left Bangladesh and Myanmar with the intention of resettling in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The conditions in the migrant camps found in the Malaysian jungle show signs of “shocking cruelty,” with some migrants apparently held in “human cages” made from wood and barbed wire. Malaysian national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said there were signs that torture has been used.

Whilst Indonesia and Malaysia have finally agreed to take in these suffering migrants on a temporary basis, Thailand will not open their borders. The Thai government has established a “floating naval base” to aid those migrants stranded at sea, and only those needing serious medical help will be allowed ashore.

"If anyone is injured or sick, they can be treated at hospitals in Thailand but will face illegal entry charges - it is up to them to decide," said Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The Asian migrant crisis was catalyzed by Rohingya Muslims feeling that they have “no choice” but to leave Myanmar, where the majority live, as they have faced decades of persecution. The only option available to this oppressed minority group is to pay people smugglers to help them flee, over sea to Thailand and then across the land border to Malaysia.

Since Thailand began cracking down on people smuggling routes, traffickers have been conducting the entire voyage by boat, often abandoning boats full of desperate people in the middle of the Andaman Sea.

Pia Orrenius, Vice President of the Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, writes about the dangers of strict border controls in her IZA World of Labor article.

Orrenius warns: “Immigration enforcement is costly and carries significant unintended consequences, such as an increase in fraudulent and falsified documents and rising border death rates as migrants undertake more dangerous crossings.”

According to her research, increasing the intensity of border enforcement and being so strict with regards to immigration “leads to a higher demand for smugglers, riskier crossings, and more migrant deaths,” says Pia Orrenius.

This is certainly very evident from the recent tragic migrant crises both in the Mediterranean and the Andaman Seas as desperate migrants turn to increasingly dangerous methods of reaching a new “safe” place to live, work, and exist free of the persecution they are fleeing from. Unfortunately, many perish trying to get there.

Read more about this story here.

Related articles:
Enforcement and illegal migration, by Pia Orrenius
Circular Migration, by Klaus F. Zimmermann