The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is an open and growing network consisting of more than 300 civil society organisations and individuals from over 28 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. APRRN aims to advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection through joint advocacy, capacity strengthening, resource sharing and outreach. APRRN envisions a region in which all people in need have equal and adequate access to assistance and protection, and to timely durable solutions as relevant. We envision a region in which refugee communities, civil society, UNHCR, States (including those outside the region) and other actors collaborate effectively towards the common purpose of protection.
APRRN was first initiated at the first Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR) held in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in November 2008. APRRN’s membership is immensely diverse; our members include, members of refugee communities, community- based refugee organisations, service providers, human rights advocacy groups, research institutions, and law firms that provide pro-bono legal aid. The majority of APRRN members are civil society groups working within local contexts, lobbying their governments for changes in policies and legislation to protect the rights of refugees.
The Asia Pacific is currently home to the largest population of refugees in the world and is the site of some of the world’s most acute and protracted refugee situations. The Asia Pacific is also home to large numbers of torture survivors, trafficked persons, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, returnees, people displaced by conflict and other forms of human rights abuse, and other people in need of protection.
The Asia Pacific is characterised by low levels of accession to international refugee and human rights instruments with a severe absence of domestic legal frameworks for refugees and people in need of protection. The increasing deviation from international protection standards by countries in the region that have international commitments to refugee protection adds further complexities and challenges. This undermines the ability to obtain effective protection in host, transit and destination countries. As a consequence of this legal vacuum, refugees and other displaced persons are frequently subject to gross violations of their fundamental rights. They are constantly at risk of arrest and arbitrary detention, deportation, torture and Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV). In addition access to basic services such as food, housing, education and health are very limited. Growing xenophobia and negative perceptions of those fleeing persecution further compound the issue.
APRRN was formed due to the realisation that civil society working with people in need of protection should collaborate and advance the rights of affected populations. Prior to the establishment of the Network, groups worked in isolation, within their in their local contexts, with limited access to specialist training, technical resources. At the heart of our work lies the belief that by strengthening national civil society and building strong regional alliances, we can create a better environment for people in need of protection region-wide. The Network facilitates the exchange of skills and good practices and provides a platform to magnify national concerns at the regional and international levels.
APRRN’s Vision for Regional Protection encapsulates what APRRN believes could be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region within ten to twenty years in relation to refugees and other people in need of protection. This has been informed by extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders, underlining the spirit of partnership, collaboration, accountability and transparency which guides our work.
The Vision for Regional Protection is accompanied by a Plan of Action that sets out what various stakeholders need to do in order for the Vision to be realised and a Research and Consultation Framework to identify challenges, opportunities and good practices and guide research and further consultation. These three documents comprise the APRRN Framework for Regional Protection. This APRRN strategic plan includes a four-year roll out and also includes institutional goals for consolidating and strengthening our performance and resilience as a network.
APRRN’s activities are structured into three key areas:
Through joint advocacy, APRRN aims to advance refugee rights at the national, regional and international levels. Our goal is national and local ownership of refugee protection, harmonised within a regional framework that is consistent with international standards.
At the national level, APRRN aims to strengthen local civil society actors and encourages the formation of national networks. Through this pillar we aim to create space for advocacy with regional bodies such as the ASEAN, SAARC and the Bali Process.
APRRN also aims to engage with a variety of other key stakeholders such as UNHCR, other UN agencies, donors and governments. Under this pillar APRRN seeks to influence bilateral and multilateral negotiations relating to a prospective regional protection framework and the accession to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. To coordinate, plan and evaluate these advocacy strategies, APRRN holds sub-regional consultations, roundtables, and workshops throughout the year.
Through the year APRRN coordinates trainings and workshops targeted at strengthening the capacity of members to respond to key protection challenges more effectively (legal aid, advocacy, refugee law, mental health, gender issues, statelessness, alternatives to detention).
The Network has a wealth of experience and expertise that is shared throughout our membership and our capacity strengthening initiatives empowers national civil society organisations and puts them in a better position to conduct their activities.
APRRN aims to build on the existing work of APRRN members, and further strengthen this area through improved knowledge sharing throughout the network. Effective information sharing and exchange among existing/potential members, as well as the public will be facilitated by the Working Groups and the Secretariat through the various APRRN communication channels.
Under this pillar, outreach as well as awareness -raising will be conducted with the aim of increasing APRRN’s visibility, highlighting refugee issues and fighting against growing xenophobia in the region. Through APRRN’s data collection and research projects the network is in a strong position to conduct advocacy activities based on the needs of our members.