While the devastating effects of the worldwide economic crisis sweep across the news and erupt into our worrisome minds, the reality of these stresses become even more magnified as we step outside of our tinted first-world windows and into developing world scrap-metal yards.
Within the last months of 2008 and stretching into the New Year, hundreds of economic refugees fleeing from Myanmar and Bangladesh have reportedly reached the harbours of Thailand only to be tied up and dragged back out to sea in motorless boats with little to no food or water. Suffering from starvation, dehydration and jumping ship, only a fraction of survivors have been found scattered along the Indian Andaman islands and the Indonesian province of Aceh by Indian coast guards. Currently, survivors are being cared for in refugee camps at these locations until they are well enough to return home.
After opening our eyes to yet another tragic story-- recalling a similar, though less torturous, incident last July-- Thailand's unimaginative navy habitually chose an inhumane route as their solution to illegal immigration. In light of this event, we can point fingers at the fact that this month Thailand's foreign minister, before taking office, declared that Thailand would pursue a "clean and humane" foreign policy and would adhere to humanitarian principles under any circumstance. However, as the developing country, known for employing illegal immigrants, plunges deeper into recession, panicking officials seem pushed into hastily choosing what limited means they have of disposing of illegal immigrants in an attempt to keep their own citizens employed.
By no means is this to say that binding the hands of refugees and sending them to sea to die can be justified as a way of handling illegal immigration, but under such serious financial difficulties, it is understandable that a country would want to place its own citizens first. A country deciding to employ illegal immigrants, especially one in the developing world, must consider the effect it will have on their own legal inhabitants. Illegal immigrants are willing to work under terrible conditions and for a substantially lower income, making their employment much more attractive to businesses. This, however, becomes a major problem to the country's residents during an economic crisis because their job opportunities diminish, leading them to an even more unfathomable degree of poverty.
While it is currently illegal for Thailand to send refugees home to a country inflicting persecution or brutality upon its citizens, the United Nations is a source of funding available for help. Yet, in cases concerning economic refugees, hoping to find employment and a better standard of living in another country, there is no specific financial resource available. Such immigrants are at the mercy of the countries they wish to enter. Therefore, the goal should be to develop job opportunities in developing countries so that their residents will both want and be able to live and work in their own countries.
Meanwhile, to prevent such inhumane actions from occurring, a new source of financial aid or quota for the number of economic refugees accepted by developed countries should be introduced. That way, the welfare of economic refugees will not become the burdensome responsibility of alarmed nations, erratically dealing with economic downfalls.