The refugee crisis that’s attracted the most notice of late is the one in the Mediterranean Sea, but there’s another one taking place in Southeast Asia involving Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya. The Rohingya are arguably the single most abused population on the planet, denied citizenship by a Burmese government that insists, absent evidence, that they are all illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, herded into giant open air prisons without freedom of movement or even the ability to feed themselves, and subject to frequent attacks by Burmese Buddhists, particularly those involved with the perverse 969 Movement. Periodically groups of them flee across the border into Bangladesh, but the government of Bangladesh also wants nothing to do with them and keeps them living in squalor in camps on the border. There are an estimated 6000-20000 Rohingya migrants currently at sea, fleeing either persecution in Myanmar or ghetto-ization in Bangladesh, having paid human traffickers to stuff them onto rickety vessels and sail them in the direction of Malaysia or Indonesia.
We’ve all heard this song before, though; Malaysia and Indonesia have now decided, after years of taking in Rohingya migrants, that they don’t want to take them in anymore (and the other large player in the region, Thailand, is also not hospitable to them), so they’re turning boats back around and forcing them to sail back to wherever they came from. It’s not as though life is peachy keen for the Rohingya who do make it to Malaysia or Indonesia (and even sometimes from Indonesia on to Australia), but they’re willing to pay everything they have to unscrupulous smugglers and pirates for the chance to sail on unseaworthy vessels in the hope that they might get there anyway, because as awful as that all seems to us, it’s still better than what they’re trying to get away from.