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US willing to take ‘leading role’ in solving migrant crisis

A White House spokesperson has said that the US is willing to take a “leading role” in dealing with the crisis affecting Rohingya migrants in Southeast Asia.

At a press briefing on 20 May, spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the US will consider requests “for additional funds to assist governments to establish things like reception centres and ensure protection screening procedures.”

“We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants, who have risked their lives at sea,” she said.

The United States is also “taking a careful look” at a proposal to resettle the migrants and is “prepared to take a leading role in any UNHCR organised multi-country effort to resettle the most vulnerable refugees,” the spokesperson said.

Harf told reporters that a high-level US delegation will be present at the 29 May regional summit organised by Thailand, to be held in Bangkok, and urged “all governments in the region with a stake in this issue” to attend the meeting.

Commenting on the news that following a meeting between Malaysian, Thai and Indonesia Foreign Ministers on Wednesday, Indonesia and Malaysia had vowed to stop boat ‘push-backs’ and to provide temporary shelter to up to 7,000 migrants, Harf said that the US “welcomes” the decisions, and “urges other countries of the region and the international communities to support them in those efforts.”


When pressed about whether the US would resettle Rohingya migrants within its borders, Harf said “We’ve already resettled I think more than a thousand Rohingya [in the past year], and we said we’re prepared to take a leading role in any UNHCR-organised effort.

“It has to be a multi-country effort. We obviously can’t take this all on ourselves, but we are prepared to play a leading role in this effort.”

US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due to arrive in Burma on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in Indonesia on Wednesday, he said, “the only sustainable solution to the problem is changing the conditions that let them put their lives at risk at the first place.”


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