Duterte says PH willing to aid Afghan, Rohingya refugees

Domestic Affairs

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed Wednesday that the Philippines is willing to extend assistance to Afghan and Rohingya refugees.

While the Philippines has limited resources, it will do its best to “uplift human dignity,” Duterte said in a prerecorded speech delivered during the 76th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

“The imposition of one’s will over another — no matter how noble the intent — has never worked in the past. And it never will in the future,” Duterte said.

Duterte said the Philippines’ doors are open to Afghan nationals fleeing Afghanistan to escape the Taliban’s rule.

“The Philippines, in line with its longstanding humanitarian tradition, has opened its doors to Afghan nationals, especially women and children, fleeing from conflict. As one global community, we must do our utmost to help the Afghan people and all those who continue to suffer,” he said.

On Sept. 8, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed that the Philippines has welcomed the first Afghan refugees to the Philippines, which include women and children.

Duterte said the Philippines would also continue to host Rohingya refugees fleeing war and persecution in Myanmar.

He said he has already directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work closely with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to “prepare a cooperation program for a specific number of Rohingyas,” consistent with the Philippines’ capacities.

The Philippines has a long history of extending aid to foreign nationals forced to flee from their home country.

Its open-door policy can be traced back to the end of World War I when the government welcomed “White Russians” fleeing persecution from “Red Russians” or supporters of the Socialist Revolution of 1917.

This was followed by the arrival of 1,200 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution in World War II; the Spanish republicans fleeing the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939; Chinese immigrants evading the grasp of newly-formed Communist People’s Republic of China in 1940; and the Vietnamese “boat people” or refugees from the Vietnam War.

The country also accommodated Iranian refugees in 1979, Indo-Chinese refugees escaping regime changes in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in 1980, and East Timor refugees in 2000.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said his office will communicate shortly with the UN on how to assist Rohingya refugees.

“As instructed by the President, the DOJ will coordinate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to find out how we can help,” Guevarra told newsmen.

Guevarra, meanwhile, said there are still no applications with the DOJ for the grant of refugee status to Afghan nationals fleeing from their country.

“Right now, we have admitted only a handful (Afghan nationals), but they are here only for temporary shelter until they are permanently resettled elsewhere. The Afghan nationals who are here are slated for resettlement in another country. So, they need not apply for refugee status in the Philippines,” Guevarra said.

Source: Philippines News Agency