IOM steps up support as Rohingya refugee numbers rise in Southeast Asia
Increasing numbers of Rohingya refugees have been arriving in Southeast Asian countries by sea and land, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Tuesday as it scales up support in the region.
Almost 3,300 arrived in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand last year, the UN agency said, a roughly 290 per cent rise over the 850 people recorded in 2021.
IOM urged States in the region to work collectively to provide life-saving care and support to the refugees to prevent loss of life at sea during the migration journey.
The Rohingya, a majority Muslim community, have been fleeing waves of violence and persecution in Myanmar. More than 700,000 left the country in 2017 to escape a brutal military crackdown.
Almost one million Rohingya are currently living in crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“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, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
As the increase in arrivals continues, with nearly 300 already as of 23 January, IOM is ramping up operations to provide vital humanitarian assistance.
Providing basic services
Most arrivals have been recorded in Indonesia, where IOM is working with the authorities, NGO partners and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to facilitate access to basic services.
IOM has provided protection and health services, in addition to refurbishing temporary shelters and ensuring water supply, access to food, sanitation and waste management.
Teams are also conducting information sessions in the Rohingya language to support the refugees in identifying risks linked to human smuggling and trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Education and housing help
In Thailand, IOM is providing health services to Rohingya, in addition to promoting alternatives to detention for migrant children and mothers and an increase in education services for those in shelters.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, it is expanding a cash-based rental assistance programme, following vulnerability assessments, in response to the constant threat of eviction Rohingya refugees face.
Since 2020, over 3,000 Rohingya in the three countries have received direct assistance from IOM.