See - De Lima: PHL will protect ‘genuine’ asylum seekers | News | GMA News Online
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In a statement, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
"A process is in place to accord the protection of the Philippine government to genuine asylum seekers," she said. "The Philippines is willing to share to other Southeast Asian countries its experience in the management of asylum seekers."
De Lima said the Philippines is no stranger to accommodating asylum seekers even before the country became a signatory tot the 1951 Convention that was adopted on July 22, 1981.
As early as World War II, the Philippines had provided asylum to 1,500 Jew refugees who had been denied asylum in other countries, she said.
De Lima described the plight of the "boat people" as a "humanitarian crisis that calls for humanitarian measures to meet the challenges of countries to whom they may ask for help."
She said these nationals of Myanmar and Bangladesh may be victims of persecution, and have become willing victims of human smuggling just to escape threats to their lives, freedom, and other human rights.
While under Philippine law aliens who enter without a passport or on false passport are undocumented and should be sent away, those asylum seekers from Myanmar and Bangladesh are an exception.
"However, 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," said De Lima.
As for those who trafficked the asylum seekers, De Lima assured the public that they would be dealt with in accordance with the law against human trafficking.
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