Malaysia "to accept" 40 asylum-seekers denied at Singapore

Featured South East Asia - December 19th, 2012
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Malaysia has taken in 40 refugees after the shipwreck survivors – believed to have come from Myanmar – were denied entry to Singapore. There appears to be increasing reluctance among Southeast Asian governments to accept asylum-seekers fleeing ethnic violence in the Rakhine region.

A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency vessel picked up the 40 men from the Vietnamese cargo ship Nosco Victory on Tuesday, according to Nguyen Cong Thanh, deputy general director at the ship’s owner Northern Shipping Joint Stock Co.

Nine other survivors were aboard the Liberia-flagged freighter X-Press Hoogly which rescued the men after their vessel, which was carrying 250 people, sank in Myanmar waters on Dec 5. India’s coast guard said the vessel Nagu was bound for Malaysia.

Both ships were due to dock in Singapore but were refused permission by Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority, which said the refugees did “not appear to be persons eligible to enter” the country. Singapore said it couldn’t accept asylum-seekers because of its small size and limited resources but pledged to find other asylum destinations.

Officials also said the captains of both vessels had ignored advice from Indian authorities to take the survivors to the “nearest port of safety”.

It isn’t immediately clear whether Malaysia also intends to take in the nine survivors; its government is yet to make an official statement on the matter.