De Lima: PH is ready to shelter ‘boat people’

By , on May 19, 2015

Justice Sec. Leila De Lima (screengrab from News5 InterAksyon footage)
Justice Sec. Leila De Lima (screengrab from News5 InterAksyon footage)

MANILA — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday that the country is ready to provide shelter for “boat people” coming from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

This is should they decide to land on Philippine shores, according to De Lima in a press statement.

She added that the country maintains compliance of its obligation to admit and protect asylum seekers in accordance with the country’s law.

De Lima cited that the Philippines was a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

“If there are boat people who come to us seeking the protection of our government, there is a process, there are existing mechanisms on how to handle these refugees or asylum seekers. So it’s not accurate that we will not help them just because they are undocumented. Their situation is indifferent and they should be treated differently,” she said.

The secretary added that the boat people are victims if persecution.

“In their desperation to leave the territory where their life or freedom has been threatened, or their human rights have been seriously violated, they even become willing victims of human smuggling,” she said.

She also describe the phenomenon as “a humanitarian crisis that calls for humanitarian measures to meet the challenges of countries to whom they may ask for help.”

“Asylum seekers cannot always be expected to obtain travel documents, particularly where the agent of persecution is the state. Hence, their situation deserves to be treated and examined in a different context,” De Lima said.

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