Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Irregular Maritime Migration in the Bay of Bengal: The Challenges of Protection, Management, and Cooperation


Map image courtesy of Wikipedia

As a vast region with myriad islands, peninsulas, and ancient sea routes, Asia has a lengthy tradition with maritime migration. But this migration has become increasingly complex as refugees and irregular migrants move around the Asia-Pacific region by sea, challenging governments to control their borders, regulate immigration, and fulfill their obligations under international law.

In Irregular Maritime Migration in the Bay of Bengal Region: The Challenges of Protection, Management and Cooperation, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Senior Fellow Kathleen Newland looks at the emerging trends in irregular migration in the Bay of Bengal area, which experienced crisis earlier this year as mixed flows of humanitarian and economic migrants, largely from Myanmar and Bangladesh, faced critical dangers at sea. Denied permission to land, in some cases pushed back out to sea, an unknown number—believed to be upwards of 1,000—have died of starvation, dehydration, or violence aboard the boats since 2014.

The brief explores how the countries of the region can cooperate to enhance migration management and protection of these migrants. In particular, it notes that most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are party to international law on transnational crime and international maritime law, which may suggest a pathway to stronger regional cooperation on migration at sea, focused around the twin priorities of saving lives and countering smuggling.

This issue in brief is the thirteenth in a series by the Migration Policy Institute and the International Organization for Migration’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The series offers succinct insights on migration issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region today. We invite you to read earlier briefs in the series here.


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