TRAVERS McLEOD. Opportunity for regional leadership on Rohingya refugees.

Australia  and  Indonesia,  the  Co­‐Chairs  of  the  Bali  Process  on  People  Smuggling, Trafficking  in  Persons  and   Related  Transnational  Crime,  have  been  asked  by regional  experts  to  fulfil  a  promise  made  after  the  2015   Andaman  Sea  crisis  by responding  quickly  to  the  refugee  crisis  in  Myanmar  and  Bangladesh.  This is an historic opportunity for the Bali Process to demonstrate its value and the benefit of cooperation problem solving in the region.

The  Asia  Dialogue  on  Forced  Migration  (ADFM),  an  expert  group  recognised  by  the  Bali  Process  for  its   independent  policy  advice,  told  senior  officials  following  its  meeting  in  Manila  last week  that  the  conditions   for  triggering  the  Consultation  Mechanism  established  by  ministers  after  the  2015  crisis  have  been  met.

“The  ADFM’s  strong  view  is  that  the  Bali  Process  Consultation  Mechanism  must  be  activated”,  said  Tri  Nuke   Pudjiastuti,  of  the  Indonesian  Institute  of  Sciences,  one  of  the  four  convening  organisations  of  the  ADFM.     “Retno  Marsudi  and  Julie  Bishop,  Indonesian  and  Australian  Foreign  Ministers  and  Bali  Process  Co‐Chairs,   convinced  fellow  ministers  to  institute  vital  reforms  in  March  2016  so  that  the  failure  of  the  Bali  Process  to   act  during  the  2015  Andaman  Sea  crisis  would  not  happen  again.  Those  reforms  should  now  be  put  to  work.”

“In  addition  to  the  Co­‐Chairs  triggering  the  Consultation  Mechanism,  Indonesia  should  continue  to   encourage  a  single  ASEAN  position  on  the  crisis.  So  too  Australia  with  other  Bali  Process  members.”

In  March  2016,  Bali  Process  ministers  pledged  more  agile  and  timely  responses  to  urgent  irregular  migration.   They  created  a  Consultation  Mechanism  for  fast  communication  and  coordination  in  emergency  situations.   Senior  officials  reviewed  the  2015  Andaman  Sea  crisis  and  agreed  to  more  reforms  in  November  2016.     “Activating  the  Consultation  Mechanism  could  achieve  several  objectives”,  said  Steve  Wong,  of  the  Institute   of  Strategic  and  International  Studies  Malaysia.  “First  and  foremost,  it  would  ensure  there  is  an  honest   broker  with  authority  and  legitimacy  to  share  information  and  coordinate  policy  responses  in  the  region.”

“How  this  crisis  unfolds  from  here  is  predictable”,  said  Sriprapha  Petcharamesree,  from  the  Institute  of   Human  Rights  and  Peace  Studies  at  Mahidol  University,  Thailand.     “Bali  Process  senior  officials  should  explore  responses  to  potential  scenarios,  including  ongoing  conflict  in   Rakhine  State,  further  assistance  required  by  Bangladesh  authorities  and  international  agencies,  onward   maritime  movements,  exploitation   by  people  smuggling  and  human  trafficking  networks,  Myanmar’s   willingness  to  allow  people  to  return,  and  resettlement  options  for  those  people  permanently  displaced.”

“It’s  time  for  Australia  and  Indonesia  to  deliver  on  the  promise  they  made  as  Co‐Chairs  of  the  Bali  Process  in   March  2016”,  said  Travers  McLeod,  CEO  of  the  Centre  for  Policy  Development.     “Stepping  up  could  make  a  huge  difference  to  the  region’s  most  vulnerable  people  and  give  other  regional   structures  like  ASEAN  confidence  to  take  appropriate  action.  Failure  to  act  risks  undermining  the  credibility   of  the  Bali  Process  and  would  be  inconsistent  with  important  progress  made  over  the  past  18  months.”

“With  more  than  400,000  people  estimated  to  have  fled  Myanmar  for  Bangladesh  since  violence  broke  out   in  Rakhine  State  on  25  August,  this  is  an  historic  opportunity  for  the  Bali  Process  to  demonstrate  its  value   and  the  benefits  of  cooperative  problem  solving  in  the  region.”

Travers McLeod is Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Policy Development. 

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One Response to TRAVERS McLEOD. Opportunity for regional leadership on Rohingya refugees.

  1. Kevin Bain says:

    It is odd that this article (which seems to be a press release) calls for a Bali Process response, but the adjacent article from Human Rights Watch is silent on this. The Related article “Regional cooperation on refugees, Bali and a Track II Dialogue” from Feb 2016 is critical of the Bali Process, and it has been widely discounted by others as having a security focus rather than a refugee focus.

    I interpreted the Track 2 Dialogue as a practitioner workshop prioritising the saving and enhancement of refugee lives rather than the kneejerk political responses of the 45 country members of Bali P within its complex architecture. Indonesia’s expression of concern and Malaysia’s recent concessions to work and other rights is relevant here.

    Bali doesn’t seem to have helped the standoff in 2015 when the Rohingya refugees were stranded in the Andaman Sea. AFAIK the temporary sanctuary to them in Malaysia and Thailand was on the basis that other countries would offer re-settlement but this has not happened. Why do you expect change through this process?

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