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What does Malaysia's flight 370 say about asylum routes?

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Wong Maye-E/AP

(Read caption) Pictures of the two men, a 19-year old Iranian, identified by Malaysian police as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, left, and the man on the right, his identity still not released, who boarded the now missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with stolen passports, is held up by a Malaysian policewoman during a press conference, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia.

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The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has riveted the world – and also shone a light on asylum-seeking dynamics in Southwest and Southeast Asia.

The revelation that two Iranians had bought and used stolen European passports to board the flight – Pouri Nourmohammadi and Delavar Seyedmohammaderza, according to Interpol – initially sparked theories that a terrorist plot took down the plane.

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But it appears that the two Iranians were planning to seek asylum in Europe, by way of Beijing, highlighting a common trend in the region: Iranians, Afghans, or Iraqis make their way to sympathetic countries like Indonesia or Malaysia, and then use stolen documents to find asylum in Europe or elsewhere.

“Indonesia usually gets all of the attention, but a lot of them are in Malaysia, too,” notes our correspondent on the ground in the region. “It’s not something they like to talk about.”

The Australian government’s recent crackdown on asylum seekers using Indonesia as a jumping-off point has drawn attention to the migration in the region.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.