Washington (BBN)-The US welcomes a decision by Malaysia and Indonesia to stop turning away migrants, adding it will consider resettling refugees.
The United States is willing to help Indonesia and Malaysia cope with a wave of refugees stranded on boats in Southeast Asian waters.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US is seeking to help Southeast Asian countries “bear the burden” of coping with the refugees, reports Sky News.
It comes after Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to provide temporary shelter to thousands of migrants stuck at sea.
The migrants from Burma and Bangladesh are stuck on boats with little food and water.
Most of them are the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and others are Bangladeshis fleeing poverty.
Ms Harf said the US welcomes Indonesia and Malaysia’s decision to stop turning away the migrants.
She added that Washington will help UN agencies establish protection centres to cope with the refugees, and consider requests to resettle some of the refugees.
“The US stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today,” Ms Harf said.
“We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants who have risked their lives at sea.”
Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand caused international anger by driving off boats overloaded with exhausted and dying Rohingya, as well as Bangladeshis.
The agreement to provide temporary shelter for the migrants was made after Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman met with his counterparts from Indonesia and Thailand.
“Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those 7,000 irregular migrants at sea,” Mr Anifah told reporters.
He said the two countries “also agreed to provide them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community”.
“In the meantime, Malaysia and Indonesia invite other countries in the region to join in this endeavour,” he said.
The agreement marked the first breakthrough in the humanitarian crisis confronting Southeast Asia after weeks of reluctance by the region’s nations to take responsibility.
Most of the victims are believed to be victims of human traffickers, abandoned by smugglers in open waters following a recent crackdown on long-established human-trafficking routes.
Mr Anifah said the countries involved in the crisis would continue to share intelligence to combat people smuggling.
But he also urged the international community to “uphold their responsibility and urgently share the burden of providing the necessary support to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand in addressing the problem”.
Nearly 3,000 migrants from Burma and Bangladesh have made it ashore in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days.
But many vessels have been sent back to sea after reaching land.
The governments of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have a policy of towing boats into international waters if they are seaworthy, apparently with no regard for the health of the passengers.