Bangkok, May 20: Malaysia and Indonesia offered on Wednesday to receive and assist thousands of refugees stranded in ships in the Bay of Bengal if the international community commits to their resettlement or repatriation within an year.
Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anifah Aman said after meeting his Indonesian and Thai counterparts in Kuala Lumpur that he was yet to decide on the location of a temporary refuge for the refugees, Efe news agency reported.
After the meeting, Anifah said in a televised joint declaration that Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to "continue to provide humanitarian assistance" to the 7,000 illegal immigrants currently stranded at sea.
"We also agreed to offer them temporary shelter provided that resettlement and repatriation processes are completed by the international community within a year," the minister added.
Around 2,500 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar disembarked in Malaysia and Indonesia last week, despite attempts by these countries to keep them away from their shores.
Most are Rohingyas, a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar where they are not accepted as citizens.
The meeting of the foreign ministers was held days after several UN entities urged the three countries to protect the refugees stranded at sea and facilitate their disembarkation.
According to the UN, 88,000 illegal immigrants, including 25,000 in the first quarter of this year, have taken to boats since 2014.
Around 2,000 have died owing to poor travel conditions and mistreatment by traffickers.