IOM Appeals for USD 26 million for Migrants in SE Asian Boat Crisis

Thailand - IOM is appealing for USD 26 million to assist up to 10,000 people affected by the migrant crisis in the Andaman Sea. The bulk of the money will go towards temporary shelter, food, water, and other material aid. Provision is also made for psychosocial support, and for the eventual return and reintegration of those who wish to go back to their countries of origin.

Over the past three weeks, thousands of victims of people smuggling have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, after horrific voyages of up to four months. Thousands more refugees, stateless people and economic migrants are believed to be still at sea. Those who have landed tell harrowing tales of overcrowding, beatings and a chronic lack of food and water, which in some cases resulted in extreme violence.

“There is no doubt that these people have suffered unimaginably and for a protracted period,” said Jeff Labovitz, IOM’s Chief of Mission for Thailand, who heads an operation to bring aid to the migrants in accommodation centres and camps across the region. “The number one priority is still to find and rescue those still at sea, whilst caring for those who have landed, many of whom are malnourished and traumatized.”

For migrants who have reached land, it is critical to ensure that the basic humanitarian and protection needs of all migrants are met. In the three countries of destination, there is a significant need for temporary shelter support and non-food items (NFIs). Indonesia and Malaysia have specifically reached out to the international community to provide this support.

IOM estimates that at least 5,000 people will require support to return to their country of origin in safety and dignity, with additional support for their reintegration once home. Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is a core IOM activity globally that has provided vital assistance to tens of thousands of migrants returning home every year.

IOM’s global coverage with AVRR projects consists of counselling, pre-departure and departure assistance from 70 host countries, and reception/reintegration assistance in 167 countries of origin. IOM sees voluntary return and reintegration as a key strategy in ensuring humane and orderly movement of migrants.

The recent discovery of numerous mass graves in smuggling camps in Thailand and Malaysia prompted a crackdown on criminal networks, confirming the brutal conditions that were widely suspected.

Immediately prior to the crackdown, an NGO, the Arakan Project, estimated 7,800 migrants departed by boat from the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar in March, followed by an additional 5,000 in April; a total of 12,800 migrants.

No boats departed in May, with the launch of the crackdown. It is not known how many of the 12,800 migrants that departed from 1 March ultimately managed to land.   The Arakan Project has warned that 8,000 migrants were stranded at sea and IOM supports this number as credible.  Since May 10th, more than 4,000 migrants have landed.  In addition, IOM has been assisting nearly 2,000 individuals in Indonesia and Thailand, who landed prior to the start of the current crisis.   

This week’s gruesome discovery of yet more mass graves in rural Malaysia, close to the site of the Thai graves, has underscored the need for an international solution to the crisis that addresses all contributing factors.

On Friday (29/5), IOM Director General William Lacy Swing will participate in an intergovernmental meeting in Bangkok, called by the Royal Thai government, to discuss irregular migration in the Indian Ocean.

For a copy of the IOM Appeal, please go to:

For more information, please contact Jeff Labovitz at IOM Thailand, Email:, Tel. +6689 8908702. Or Joe Lowry at IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok (in Aceh, Indonesia until Wednesday 27/5), Tel.: +66.81 870 8081, Email: