Bangkok, 26th January 2017
An early draft of an Executive Order that President Donald Trump is expected to issue this week outlines a plan to ban all refugees from the United States for an initial 120 days. The Order makes specific reference to Syrians, with a timeline that may result in the ban being extended for certain countries or all countries until “I have determined that sufficient changes have been made…to ensure alignment with the national interest.”
The Executive Order will affect refugee families, men, women, and children around the globe, including those in the Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific has consistently been home to large numbers of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. Solutions for refugees in Asia are limited and in many of these countries, refugees lack basic human rights, and are vulnerable to exploitation. Countries in this region are also reluctant to locally integrate refugees and provide them with livelihood opportunities. Options for return are even more limited as many countries where refugees in Asia originate from still face conflict, civil war, instability or persecution. Meanwhile, refugees present in Asia have been trafficked, subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, and are often left destitute and homeless. They are often re-traumatised by such circumstances, and eventually may even be forcibly returned to situations of atrocity, torture, and sometimes death. Such circumstances will be exacerbated by Trump’s actions.
“Refugee protection is inherently international. This action by the President of the United States will cause tremendous human suffering all over the world including in our region, the Asia Pacific.” Yiombi Thona, Chair of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
Julia Mayerhofer, Deputy Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), noted “refugees in Asia are often stuck in limbo for many years. We know of some families that have been in places like Thailand for more than five years. During this time they can’t work, can’t access basic health services, their children can’t go to school and they are at constant fear of being arrested. Resettlement is therefore vital for vulnerable cases like families, single mothers and unaccompanied minors”. The ban will affect refugees living in the Asia Pacific that are already in the resettlement pipeline. “It will devastate families whose only hope was to get resettled within the next months”, said Mayerhofer.
Trump’s Order is also not in the spirit of responsibility sharing. Just a few months ago states gathered to adopt the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The declaration highlights the “shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people centered manner”. Resettlement is an important part of that. The Order greatly undermines responsibility sharing and is an inhumane measure that will lead to desperation of refugees in Asia and around the world. It marks another low.
“The proposed ban is being made against the victims of terrorism and human rights violations, and amounts to turning our back on the most vulnerable persons on the planet. It is like kicking women and children, after terrorists push them down. It is time for people to stand up for what is right, and what is right is not a difficult question in this case.” Brian Barbour, Director of Protection and Assistance, Japan Association for Refugees.
Refugees are the victims of persecution. They are displaced from war-torn countries, places of mass atrocity, and situations of terrorism and violence of which they have been the target and victim. This Executive Order targets them: the victims of atrocity, not the terrorists. While we remain hopeful that the Orders are scrapped, APRRN stands united with refugees and human rights defenders around the globe against any action targeted at refugees’ dignity, rights, and physical safety.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is an open and growing network of over 300 civil society groups and individuals from 28 countries in the Asia Pacific region committed to advancing the rights of refugees, through joint advocacy, capacity-strengthening, resource sharing and outreach.
Julia Mayerhofer, Deputy Secretary General, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (Bangkok)
Tel: +66 891125761 | Email: Julia@aprrn.info
Yiombi Thona, Chair, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network Chair (New York)
Tel: +82 1038816610 | Email: email@example.com
Brian Barbour, Director of Protection & Assistance, Japan Association for Refugees (Tokyo)
Tel: +81 9067120848 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org