Southeast Asia

Where does the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration work in the region?

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) supports IO and NGO humanitarian assistance and protection programs for vulnerable populations in Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. In addition, the Bureau also monitors issues pertaining to the protection and assistance needs of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, vulnerable migrants, and other victims of conflict originating from Southeast Asia and displaced throughout East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia regions.

Overview of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region:

Refugees and asylum seekers from Burma comprise the largest group of persons of concern in the East Asia region, the majority of whom have been displaced for over three decades. Currently, there are nearly two million refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs, and other persons of concern in the region, including an estimated 800,000 stateless Rohingya in Burma and up to 500,000 unregistered Rohingya in Bangladesh. This includes:

• 415,000 IDPs in Rakhine, Kachin, northern Shan, and the Southeast States (Kayah, Kayin, Mon, and Tanintharyi) in Burma due to ongoing tension and conflict;

• 104,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the nine official camps on the Thailand-Burma border;

• 137,000 in Malaysia, living in Kuala Lumpur, the Klang Valley, and in other urban areas;

• 32,900 registered Rohingya in two refugee camps and an estimated 300,000-500,000 unregistered Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In Thailand, UNHCR and NGOs working on the Thailand-Burma border continue to prepare for the voluntary return of refugees from Burma residing in the nine refugee camps on the Thailand side of the border when conditions in Burma are conducive for a safe, dignified, and voluntary repatriation. NGOs are providing vocational training and skills development programs to prepare refugees for a productive future outside of the camps. The US government provides basic humanitarian services to camp-based refugees including food, healthcare, water and sanitation, women’s protection, and psychosocial services. In Bangkok, individuals from over 40 countries of origin make up the urban refugee and asylum seeker population residing there. The urban population is estimated to be nearly 9,000 refugees and asylum seekers, a 500% increase since 2012. PRM began funding NGOs in FY 2014 to help meet the legal and mental and physical health needs of this urban population, as well as to provide emergency assistance and casework management.

In Malaysia, PRM supports UNHCR and NGO programs to assist urban refugees and asylum seekers in the areas of physical and mental health care and gender-based violence prevention and response. Refugees and asylum-seekers from over 50 countries make up the population of concern of 152,000 persons registered with UNHCR, of which 90% are from Burma. A health insurance scheme began enrollment in June 2014, allowing refugees and asylum seekers to affordably purchase hospitalization health insurance.

In Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh launched its strategy and approach to addressing the undocumented Rohingya population in 2014. Key elements of the National Rohingya Strategy include a survey of the estimated up to 500,000 undocumented Rohingya, which was completed in June 2016 with a final report expected to be release in December 2016, and an eventual transition from international NGOs to local NGOs in providing humanitarian assistance. International NGOs continue to operate, working together with local NGOs, in providing assistance to the Rohingya and local Bangladeshi communities. IOM is designated by the Government as the lead coordinator of humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar and in FY 2016, PRM provided a $6 million contribution to IOM in support of its proposal to meet the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya and host communities, including almost $3 million to three international NGOs to provide healthcare services, access to safe drinking water, capacity building, services for disabled persons and gender-based violence support.

With PRM support, IOM improved the capacity of governments in the region to protect and assist vulnerable migrants by drafting a national trafficking action plan with the Burmese Government, established bilateral standard operating procedures for repatriation and reintegration of victims of trafficking between Burma and neighboring countries, trained Thai government officials on trafficking victim identification and counseling, established a community-based reintegration model in Vietnam, and provided expert advice to Laos and China on combating trafficking in persons.

What funding did the U.S. government provide through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to projects in the region in Fiscal Year 2015 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015)?

The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration provided more than $73 million of humanitarian assistance to UNHCR, ICRC, IOM and NGOs in East and Southeast Asia, of which over $36 million was targeted to support the vulnerable Burmese in Burma and in the region, including programs along the Thailand-Burma border. These programs continue to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in the areas of health and medical care, nutritional services, water, sanitation and hygiene, food, shelter, gender-based violence prevention and response, mine risk education and training, and landmines survivors assistance.

In which countries does the Department of State base Refugee Coordinators in the region? Which countries do they cover?

The Regional Refugee Coordinator, Deputy Regional Refugee Coordinator, and Assistant Regional Refugee Coordinator are based in Bangkok, Thailand and cover populations of concern in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.

Which international organization (IO) and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners did PRM support in the region in Fiscal Year 2015?


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)


International Rescue Committee (IRC)

American Refugee Committee (ARC)

The Border Consortium (TBC)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF)

Handicap International (HI)

Solidarites International (SI)

Premiere Urgence International (PUI)

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)

Asylum Access (AA)

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)

Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (BTCF)

International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC)

Health Equities Initiative (HEI)

A Call to Serve (ACTS)