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Resolving Policy Conundrums: Enhancing Humanitarian Protection in Southeast Asia

The May 2015 humanitarian crisis stemming from irregular maritime flows of Rohingya and Bengalis in the Bay of Bengal brought migrant smuggling networks into sharp focus. Long-term systematic persecution and interethnic violence in Myanmar, and a lack of livelihood opportunities in Bangladesh (where many displaced Rohingya have fled) led to a surge in maritime migration to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This report examines the key features of migration in and through Southeast Asia and assesses the policy challenges and responses to the May 2015 smugglers' abandonment of Rohingya and Bengalis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. The humanitarian crisis highlighted that the present array of policies and practices in Southeast Asia are not meeting the needs of policymakers, migrants, or the public—and fall short of balancing the need to prevent displacement and protect those who are displaced. The report concludes with a series of recommendations as policymakers recognize the further development of protection infrastructure must be a priority.