The number of Rohingya refugees arriving in South-East Asia via sea and land routes has increased exponentially in recent months. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded almost 3,300 arrivals in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in 2022, marking roughly a 290 per cent increase compared to around 850 arrivals in 2021.
As the increase in arrivals continues in 2023 – with nearly 300 as of 23 January, alone– IOM is scaling up its operations in the region to provide vital humanitarian assistance.
In Indonesia, where most of the arrivals have been recorded, IOM is working closely with the government, NGO partners and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to facilitate access to basic services. IOM has provided protection, and health services – including mental health-, in addition to refurbishing temporary shelters and ensuring water supply, access to food, sanitation and waste management.
Additionally, our teams are conducting information sessions in the Rohingya language to support the refugees in identifying the risks linked to human smuggling and trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.
In Thailand, IOM is providing health services to Rohingya, as well as promoting alternatives to detention for migrant children and mothers and an increase in education services for those in shelters. Meanwhile, IOM in Malaysia is expanding its cash-based rental assistance programme, following vulnerability assessments, in response to the constant threat of eviction Rohingya refugees face.
“Since the beginning of the Rohingya refugee crisis, IOM has been steadfast in providing the necessary humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya,” said Sarah Lou Ysmael Arriola, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Along with our UN and other humanitarian partners, we reaffirm our support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to Rohingya refugees and other vulnerable migrants, and to strengthen the broader response capacity to irregular movements.”
Since 2020, over 3,000 Rohingyas in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand received direct assistance from IOM. In a recent statement, IOM urged States in the region to work collectively to avoid a repeat of the 2015 crisis, when thousands of men, women and children faced tremendous challenges in accessing life-saving care and support, resulting in loss of life at sea. IOM continues to advocate for the protection of Rohingya before, during and after their journeys, including combatting smuggling and trafficking.
Over five years ago, the first of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled violence and persecution in Myanmar and sought refuge in what is now the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
Nearly 1 million refugees remain in congested camps, with many others embarking on dangerous journeys to neighbouring countries. IOM’s humanitarian assistance to Rohingya in the region is funded by the European Union and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).