The Philippines is ready to welcome about three thousand ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and both the state and Catholic Church agree this is the proper course of action.
According to Fides, the Asian nation’s Minister for Communications, Herminio Coloma, stressed that the Philippines pledged to “provide assistance and relief to people involuntarily displaced from their lands due to conflict,” when it signed the 1951 convention related to the status of refugees.
He recalled that in the 1970s, the Philippines welcomed the Vietnamese “boat people” who, after the Vietnam War, fled their country.
“We will continue to do our part to save lives”, Coloma stressed,
Father Socrates Mesiona, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Philippines, has praised the government’s position on this.
“It is our duty to welcome these people,” he said, “If necessary, we will welcome them and will try to ensure them a decent life. They are human beings and children of God, created in the image and likeness of God.”
“The fact that they are Muslim, he stressed, does not create any problem and does not change the state of things. As the Gospel teaches us, we are ready to give them hospitality.”
After Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand decided to not accept thousands of migrants belonging to the Rohingya Muslim minority, who are adrift in the sea of the Andaman Islands, the Southeast Asian countries are under pressure to accept. Many Rohingya flee from Burma, where they are not granted citizenship and where they are not recognized holders of fundamental rights.
As a consequence of international pressure to resolve the humanitarian crisis, an emergency meeting will be held tomorrow between the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to discuss the situation of the migrants.
Last week, more than 2,500 Bangladeshi and Burmese Rohingya landed on the coasts of the three countries and, according to the latest estimates, there are five thousand still missing in the Andaman Sea, without food or water. Authorities in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok have decided to adopt a policy of rejections. (D.C.L.)