Bangkok: Thailand on Friday expressed concern at the problem of illegal migration in the Indian Ocean reaching an “alarming level”.

“The influx of illegal migrants in the Indian Ocean has reached an alarming level,” Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanasak Patimapragorn said in his opening remarks at a meeting here on the issue.

Thailand’s ministry of foreign affairs hosted the “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” with the avowed goal of finding urgent solutions for the illegal migrants currently stranded in the Indian Ocean as well as action-oriented and long-term solutions for the problem besetting the region

“The situation has affected various countries in the region. No country can solve this problem alone,” Tanasak stressed.

He reiterated the urgency for all relevant countries in the region to work together in handling the complex issue of irregular migration in the Indian Ocean in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, Xinhua news agency reported.

While saving lives of those remaining at sea was placed at the utmost priority, concerted efforts were also required to terminate the root causes and all contributing factors of the illegal migration and other related transnational crimes such as trafficking in people, the deputy premier stressed.

In addition to taking care of over one million refugees and displaced people since the 1970s, with some 130,000 still remaining under care, Thailand is currently hosting 600 irregular maritime migrants, according to the foreign ministry.

The Thai government has recently advanced its efforts by launching a special task force to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to illegal migrants stranded at sea, deploying navy vessels serving as floating platforms to provide those rescued with necessary assistance and medical help while in transit, and deploying aircraft to patrol Thai waters, monitor movements and assist with the humanitarian operation, Tanasak said.

For Thailand, illegal maritime migration has been one of the country’s primary concerns over the years and further efforts would be wholeheartedly committed in cooperation with the international community in response to the situation, he underscored.

Friday’s meeting was attended by senior officials from 17 key affected member countries of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, the UN high commissioner for refugees, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organisation for Migration and the UN resident coordinator, together with the representatives from Japan, Switzerland and the US as observers.

The 17 countries are Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand.

Ambassadors and charge d’affaires based in Bangkok also observed the meeting.

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