Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday slammed the country’s economic migrants, many of whom are stranded in dire conditions at sea, calling them “mentally sick” and accusing them of hurting the country’s image.
The prime minister said such type of people are becoming “mentally sick” while moving to other countries in illegal way in search of money. “They are dying or their life become uncertain,” she said.
Pictures of distressed Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat individuals have prompted outrage the world over as regional nations put together to attend a Thailand-hosted 17-nation summit on Friday to debate what has develop into a humanitarian disaster throughout the Bay of Bengal and in South-East Asian waters. “Dead bodies are being found from the forests and jungles…it is very unfortunate,” she said.
“I think such an unlawful trend may be stopped if the fortune-seekers, who are going to abroad illegally, are punished side by side with the middlemen,” she said.
“They are tainting the image of the country in the international arena and putting their life into danger”.
State Minister for Labor and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu delivered the welcome address.
Up to 6000 people could still be adrift in boats after Indonesia and Malaysia last week reversed policies to push boats back out to sea.
But Thailand’s military rulers have said they will only agree to set-up “temporary holding areas” because of fears that boat people will remain in Thailand for years.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the trafficking camps were believed to have been in operation for at least five years and were only abandoned when authorities arrived on the scene, according to Bernama, the Malaysian state news agency.
He didn’t know how many bodies had been recovered.
Mass graves of refugees caught up in the human-trafficking trade have been found in northern Malaysia near the border with Thailand, authorities said Sunday.
An investigation by the BBC’s Jonathan Head has found entire communities in Thailand helping the traffickers.
Many of the migrants caught up in the crisis are Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority fleeing persecution in western Myanmar.
Most are Muslim Rohingya from neighboring Myanmar, where they are not recognized as citizens but Bangladeshis trying to escape grinding poverty are also among the migrants.
Rights groups say migrants feel they have “no choice” but to leave, paying people smugglers to help them.
The crisis was precipitated by a crackdown on human traffickers and their corrupt accomplices in Thailand which caused traffickers to abandon their human cargo on overloaded boats on the open sea.