Statement by Marie Harf, Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State

“The U.S. welcomes the decision by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand that they will work together to uphold their responsibilities under international law and provide humanitarian assistance and shelter to 7,000 vulnerable migrants stranded at sea in Southeast Asia. The United States urges other countries of the region and the international communities to support them in those efforts. This will be an important subject at the May 29th conference hosted by Thailand in Bangkok.  We believe all governments in the region with a stake in this issue should attend this conference, where a high-level U.S. delegation will be present.

The U.S. continues to urge countries in the region to take proactive steps quickly to save the lives of migrants and asylum seekers now at sea and refrain from turning away any new boat arrivals. Deputy Secretary Blinken is in the region; he said in Jakarta earlier today that the U.S. stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today. We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants, who have risked their lives at sea.”

We are actively considering our options right now on two pieces of U.S. assistance, though I’ll start with financial assistance.  If the UNHCR and IOM indicate the need for additional funds to assist governments to establish things like reception centers and ensure protection screening procedures, we’ll consider those requests. We will encourage other governments to respond swiftly and generously, and we’ll be ready to respond to an appeal if and when they make one.

The Malaysians and the Indonesians have requested some help resettling people. We’re taking a careful look at the proposal. We’re prepared to take a leading role in any UNHCR-organized multi-country effort to resettle the most vulnerable refugees. More than a thousand Rohingya have already been resettled to the U.S. so far this fiscal year. We’ve provided nearly 109 million USD in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable Burmese since the beginning of this fiscal year.