IOM Welcomes Decision to Save Lives of Migrants at Sea in Southeast Asia

Geneva - IOM has welcomed the commitment by Indonesia and Malaysia to allow thousands of migrants – currently abandoned at sea by smugglers –  to come ashore and receive life-saving assistance.

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said today in Geneva: “We commend the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, for committing to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the some 7,000 irregular migrants still at sea.” 

Mr. Swing was responding to the Joint Statement of the Ministerial Meeting on Irregular Migration of People in Southeast Asia issued by Foreign Ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand in Kuala Lumpur today.

“I applaud this humanitarian response by these ASEAN nations and urge an immediate response at sea to now rescue and bring to shore these suffering migrants, many of whom are women and children who have been in life threatening conditions without water or food for days.”

Ambassador Swing has instructed IOM to work rapidly with its partners to assist and support the irregular migrants. IOM last week allocated USD 1 million from its emergency funds to help the migrants. It also deployed 25 medical and logistical staff to four disembarkation sites earlier this month and plans to expand that number.

IOM funding will provide medical and psycho-social assistance, food and water, shelter and non-food relief items. 

IOM commits to assist in providing:

  • First aid and health screening on arrival to any injured or sick migrants, as well as water, food, shelter, and live-saving assistance.
  • Transportation to reception centers, where migrants will stay.
  • A full range of services within these centers, including supporting their management, where appropriate.
  • Resettlement assistance and help for those requesting Assisted Voluntary Return to their home countries.

IOM strongly endorses the Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai ministers’ condemnation of people smuggling and trafficking and the determination of ASEAN nations to take the necessary action to bring these criminal gangs to justice.

It is already working with governments in the region, both individually and within the “Bali Process” to counter trafficking and smuggling, and vows to strengthen and expand its efforts in this regard.

IOM also welcomes the Ministers’ recommendation to convene an emergency meeting of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, as well as the earlier decision to convene a Regional Summit in Bangkok on 29 May. IOM has been invited to this meeting and Director General Swing will attend.

IOM also notes the Government of the Philippines’ earlier pledge to come to the aid of the stranded migrants by offering temporary refuge.

“We are ready to support the ASEAN governments and our humanitarian partners in finding sustainable solutions for these migrants at risk,” Mr Swing said.

For further information please contact IOM HQ: Leonard Doyle Tel: + 41 79 285 71 23, Email:  or Joel Millman, Tel: + 41 79 103 87 20, Email: Or Joe Lowry at IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Tel.: +66.81 870 8081, Email: