What a busy few months it’s been! Our second newsletter of the year contains updates on all the important work of our members and some of the key opportunities with which we’ve been engaged. Read below for updates on our engagement with Taiwan, regional processes, geographic working group consultations and other member support.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments or corrections, please email Evan at Evan@aprrn info.
1. APRRN Events and Activities:
- Southeast Asia Working Group Consultations (May 2017)
- Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable (May 2017)
- Regional Conference for Children on the Move (May 2017)
- MFA/APRRN/GAATW Mixed Migration Workshop (April 2017)
- Leadership Training for Bangkok Refugee Youth (May 2017)
2. International Advocacy:
- Australian MP Tim Watts Tours Southeast Asia (April 2017)
- Refugee Roundtable in Taiwan (April 2017)
- New Zealand Visit (April 2017)
3. OF INTEREST:
- APRRN in the Media
- Refugee Youth Documentary: Bangkok Screening of “Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope”
- Engaging in the Global Compact on Refugees
- Upcoming Events
- APRRN Staff Updates
APRRN Events and Activities
Southeast Asia Working Group Consultations (May 2017)
On 4-5 May 2017, APRRN held Southeast Asia Working Group (SEAWG) Consultations in Bangkok, Thailand, which was joined by 40 participants from 6 different countries. The aim of these consultations was to provide an opportunity to discuss latest the latest advancements and challenges and to develop more in-depth strategies for APRRN members. The event also served as a networking and collaboration opportunity for APRRN members.
During the first session of the consultations APRRN members from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand provided updates on a number of developments that has taken place recently in the respective countries: the Presidential Decree (Indonesia), the pilot project on work rights for Rohingya refugees (Malaysia) and the Cabinet Resolution to develop a Screening Mechanism (Thailand). Continued support from APRRN to the Coalition for Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP) and CSOs in Malaysia and Indonesia to inform the development and implementation of national screening mechanisms in these countries, was agreed upon.
As APRRN had identified a need to develop a more coherent strategy for advancing protection for Rohingya refugees at different levels, updates on the situation of Rohingya across the region then followed. It was decided that APRRN would continue to advocate at regional and international level. Furthermore the Secretariat, in partnership with its members, would look into the possibility of developing a document on best practices for advocacy for Rohingya rights in the region to facilitate advocacy initiatives by members in the SEA region.
In a session on ASEAN Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree and Sumitha Kishna (Migration Working Group) provided interesting perspectives on how to advance APRRN’s engagement with ASEAN through various mechanisms. They noted the importance of tailoring and developing messages to reflect ASEAN ‘language’ and identified a number of specific ASEAN bodies, which APRRN could seek to engage with. Based upon Dr. Sriprapha’s recommendations it was agreed that the network should explore opportunities for engagement by examining key ASEAN documents and seek to build relationships with key ASEAN representatives and strengthen existing relationships.
The second day of the consultations focused on the issue of repatriation of refugees, with representatives of CSOs from the Thailand-Myanmar border providing updates of the situation and highlighting main concerns. APRRN agreed to explore possibilities for strengthening membership and network inside Myanmar and facilitating contact between the border-based CSOs and APRRN members. The consultations concluded with a wrapping up session that aimed to consolidate key points and strategies for moving forward.
Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable (May 2017)
From 2-3 May, the Regional Protection Working Group held a roundtable in Bangkok. The roundtable sought to enhance APRRN’s identification and pursuit of opportunities for strategic advocacy and collaborative action for strengthened regional refugee protection, with a particular focus upon encouraging and enabling the appropriate application of the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) in Asia. The discussions also aimed to stimulate a sustained culture of engagement and sharing in relation to APRRN’s strategic advocacy work, currently focused on the GCR, out of this roundtable. 35 participants from over 10 countries joined the roundtable and enriched the discussions with their knowledge and experiences.
The roundtable was divided into four sessions. Following plenary discussions regarding APRRN’s advocacy strategy (session A) and the global, regional and domestic advocacy opportunities emerging with respect to the GCR and to a lesser extent the Global Compact on Migrants (GCM) (session B), participants split into breakout groups for more focused discussions relating to eight specific advocacy themes. Two breakout sessions were held per theme. The first, on Tuesday afternoon (session C), focused on identifying advocacy opportunities, good practice examples and policy/practice gaps within the scope of the thematic area. The second, on Wednesday morning (session D), focused on developing the basis of our key messages to take to the UNHCR-NGO consultations in Geneva as the next immediate opportunity for us to input into the GCR process.
As an outcome of the roundtable, APRRN will continue to strengthen its engagement around the GCR but also the GCM and ensure the views of our members are reflected.
Regional Conference for Children in the Move (May 2017)
From 24-25 May 2017, a Regional Conference on Children on the Move was held in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference was organised jointly with Save the Children (SC), Terre de Hommes (TdH), International Detention Coalition (IDC) and APRRN.
The aim of the conference was to gather input from a range of national and regional stakeholders working on issues relating to children on the move in Southeast Asia to inform the content of the Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees, especially on issues that relate to children.
The Regional Conference had three key objectives: (i) Ensuring that the rights of children on the move and of other children affected by migration in Southeast Asia are mainstreamed through the consultations related to the Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants and upheld in the negotiated text of the two Global Compacts and beyond, (ii) The Joint General Comment (JGC) reflects the views of stakeholders in Southeast Asia and (iii) Greater visibility of the issue of child immigration detention in Southeast Asia and the promotion of alternatives to detention for children and their families.
Three thematic focus areas were explored during the conference: (i) access to services; (ii) child immigration detention, provision of appropriate reception and care; and (iii) integration and non-discrimination. Over the course of the two days, a number of panel and breakout sessions relating to the thematic areas were held to identify key priorities for collective and individual action, with the aim of contributing to the development of the working document “Child Rights in the Global Compacts”.
The organisers also collaborated with the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to hold a pre-session to inform the content of a Joint General Comment on the human rights of children in the context of international migration.
The pre-session was led by Mr Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers (CMW). Mr Benyam Dawit Mezmur, former Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee), joined the session via Skype and provided guidance on sections of the JGC for discussion and input. Mr Ceriani gave an overview of the background and goals of the Joint General Comment of the CMW and CRC Committee. The participants presented and discussed their views and ideas on the zero draft of the JGC. Their input was added to feed into the zero draft, which had already been informed by over 60 reports from regional organizations.
On the evening of the first day of the conference Save the Children and APRRN launched a joint report titled ‘Immigration Detention of Asylum Seeker and Refugee Children in Asia Pacific and Alternatives: a Five Country Study’. The report examines current policy framework and practices in five countries, namely Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and the Republic of Nauru.
A video produced by Save the Children titled “Unlocking Childhood. Voices of refugee and asylum seeker children in South East Asia” that reflects children’s experience of being detained in Southeast Asia was shown at the report launch. The full report is available here.
MFA/APRRN/GAATW Workshop on Mixed Migration (April 2017)
From 4-5 April 2017, APRRN, in conjunction with Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and the Global Alliance Against the Traffic in Women (GAATW) hosted a regional training in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In the lead up to the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration, the training was seen as an opportunity to bring together migrant and refugee organisations as part of the preparations for these global compact processes.
The impetus for this training was borne out of the 2016 Global Forum for Migration and Development that was hosted in Dhaka, Bangladesh. During this meeting both migrant and refugee organisations in Asia identified the need for greater understanding and conceptual clarity on refugee issues among migrant groups; and understanding and conceptual clarity on migrant issues among refugee groups. Given that the next GFMD will be held in Berlin, with the theme, “Towards a Global Social Contract on Migration and Development”, it was considered pertinent for Asian civil society members to develop a united position on issues of refugee rights and migrant rights.
Over the two days both groups were able to provide updates and a better appreciation for the issues in each of their respective areas of focus. Day one included sessions on; ‘Migrants Rights within the International Human Rights Framework’, ‘Refugee Rights within the International Human Rights Framework’, ‘Mixed Migration’, and ‘Common Challenges’. Day two proceeded with an overview of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) in addition to providing inputs to the six themes of the GCM. It is hoped that this meeting will provide the foundation by which refugee organizations can begin to plan and commence their engagement with the GCM processes over the next year.
Leadership Training for Refugee Youth: Bangkok, Thailand (May 2017)
The Bangkok Refugee Youth Leadership Training was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 29-31 May 2017. The training was organised by APRRN’s Youth Working Group with assistance from APRRN member Victoria Wisniewski Otero and Youth Group Deputy Chair Arash Bordbar. Thirteen refugee youth from Somalia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan participated in the four-day workshop.
During the first day, participants conducted a self-assessment of their current leadership capabilities as well as participated in a number of team-building exercises. Following on from this they moved into the primary focus for the day i.e. communication. Issues such as persuasion, refining your messages, public speaking and engaging with the media were all explored.
On the second day participants focussed primarily on leadership skills and learning about the qualities needed for someone to be an effective leader. The challenge of how to mobilise others and peer coaching were also covered. All in all participants found these activities to be both enlightening and challenging.
Finally, on the third day, participants moved into the final stage of the course i.e. advocacy. The youth spent the morning further developing their knowledge of human rights before learning more about the current political climate in Thailand. The day concluded with participants all developing advocacy action plans for two key focus areas i.e. the right to work and education.
Following the conclusion of the workshop, many participants expressed their desire to continue to engage in advocacy about refugee youth issues. Already participants have engaged in follow-up activities including speaking at a university in Bangkok about refugee issues.
APRRN will continue to support the outcomes of the workshop and also assist the youth to engage in advocacy opportunities both within Thailand and across borders.
Australian MP Tim Watts Tours Southeast Asia (April 2017)
From mid-late April, Australian Member of Parliament Tim Watts travelled to Southeast Asia to learn more about the challenges and issues faced by refugees in the region. Visiting Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia over 10 days, Mr. Watts met with countless NGOs, international bodies, governments and refugees to see the situation first hand and learn about the role Australia can play in responding to it.
With the help of Save the Children Australia and Australia for UNHCR, Mr Watts also visited internally displaced persons camps, urban refugee communities, shelters for unaccompanied minors, and NGOs. On Friday 21 April, Mr Watts and Save the Children hosted an APRRN members meeting with Bangkok based APRRN members. This meeting provided APRRN members in Bangkok with a chance to share issues of concern to them and the current situation on the ground for the Bangkok urban refugee community. Issues discussed included immigration detention, reduction in resettlement, access to education, healthcare and livelihoods. The meeting was attended by Asylum Access Thailand, the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons, Courageous Kitchen, JRS, Save the Children and the APRRN Secretariat.
More information from Mr Watts visit to the region can be found here.
Refugee Roundtable, Taipei, Taiwan (April 2017)
From 25-26 April 2017, a delegation of APRRN members travelled to Taiwan to promote the passage of Taiwan’s pending draft refugee legislation. The APRRN delegation consisted of APRRN Chair Yiombi Thona, East Asia Deputy Chair Il Lee, Pillkyu Hwang and Jirim Kim (Gonggam), Victoria Wisniewski Otero, Yue Fu, Evan Jones (APRRN Secretariat), Eeling Chiu (TAHR) and Allan Mackay (International Association of Refugee Law Judges). The objective of the trip was to show international solidarity and support for the development of Taiwan’s refugee protection system.
APRRN, together with the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) convened a closed-door roundtable on 25 April, which focused on positive practices and lessons learned from across East Asia and the world. During the roundtable, non-governmental and government representatives engaged in open and frank discussions on a number of refugee protection issues. Constructive feedback on the pending legislation was also given in an effort to ensure that the final text is robust and inline with international standards.
On April 26, the delegation met with a number of key government institutions including the Judicial Yuan, the Legislative Yuan and the National Immigration Agency. Each of these meetings was incredibly productive and highlighted an intense willingness for Taiwan to move towards the creation of some form of domestic refugee protection.
APRRN will continue to support Taiwan through trainings, technical expertise, resource sharing and networking. A follow-up trip of further meetings and trainings is expected to occur in October 2017. The press release from the Refugee Roundtable can be found here.
New Zealand Visit (April 2017)
Last year a delegation comprised of representatives from APRRN and the International Detention Coalition (IDC) visited New Zealand to discuss how New Zealand can strengthen its leadership around refugee protection in the region. The trip focused in particular on issues around immigration detention as an entry point and key concern in Southeast Asia.
From 3-7 April another trip was organised that built on the discussions in the previous year and explored how practical ways to Alternatives to Detention (ATDs) could be expanded. Representatives included Dr. Robyn Sampson, Research Coordinator for the IDC, Ms Michelle Ferns of the Refugee Council of Australia, and Mr Chak Ng who worked with unaccompanied refugee minors for many years at Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The delegation met with members of parliament, immigration, refugee settlement service providers, child rights groups and APRRN/IDC members. Specifically, the delegation put forward a proposal that New Zealand should resettle 20 unaccompanied refugee children from shelters in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand. This proposal is designed to make greater strategic use of limited resettlement places, to increase the impact resettlement can achieve. The proposal not only responds to the needs of a number of highly vulnerable children needing protection, but also doubles the impact resettlement can achieve by opening up 20 spaces in the community for children held in detention.
The proposal was generally received well and follow-up is currently underway. We will keep our members updates on the next steps as APRRN will be involved in the long-term.
APRRN in the Media
On the back of APRRN’s Refugee Roundtable in Taiwan, an article was published in the Taipei Times:
Refugee Youth Documentary: Bangkok Screening of “Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope”
In early 2017, Burma Link, the Karen Student Network Group (KSNG) and the Karen Youth Organisation (KYO) released an advocacy documentary titled, “Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope: Raising the Voices of Forgotten Youth.” The documentary amplifies the voices of displaced ethnic youth who live on the Thailand-Burma border, highlighting their calls for inclusion in political processes and recognition of refugee education certificates. The film features stories of youth who have been educated in higher education institutions in the refugee camps and along the border, showing their capacity and aspirations to contribute as active citizens to drive change and promote peace and national reconciliation in Burma.
On 25 May 2017, APRRN in partnership with Right to Play and Burmalink, assisted in organising a film screening to raise greater awareness of some of the issues faced by youth on the Thai-Myanmar border. Held at the Bangkok Screening Room, the film event provided a chance for Bangkok based individuals to come and learn first hand the needs, challenges and advocacy of youth on the border. Two youth from the border also travelled to Bangkok to share their thoughts and concerns on repatriation, education challenges and funding issues.
To watch the full documentary online, please visit this page. Please feel free to share this documentary widely to highlight the important work being done on the border by community based organisations.
Engaging in the Global Compact on Refugees
As many of you may know, the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) will be a big focus for many of us for the remainder of 2017 and early 2018. For those of you that are interested, ICVA has created a very useful graphic highlighting a number of different opportunities for NGO engagement. As other opportunities are arise and are identified we will certainly share these with our members. ICVA’s ‘Timeline: Main Opportunities for NGO Engagement Towards the Refugee Compact’ can be accessed here.
In addition, APRRN’s Regional Protection Working Group has recently put together a list of various advocacy opportunities. Should you wish to make any additions please contact the APRRN Secretariat. The full document can be accessed here.
APRRN Staff Updates
As many of you will know, the APRRN Secretariat has recently undergone some staffing changes. We would like to take this opportunity to officially welcome two new members of the APRRN Secretariat team.
Sussi Prapakranant joined APRRN in April 2017 as the new Programme Officer. Prior to commencing at APRRN, Sussi worked in Bangkok on child protection and anti-human trafficking issues with a local Thai foundation. Prior to this she spent a few years working on the Thai – Myanmar border on human rights issues and promoting refugee, migrant and former political prisoners’ rights. Sussi is a Danish/Thai national and holds a BA in International Development & Socioeconomic Planning Studies and a MA in Asian Studies.
We would also like to welcome Patcharin Nawichai to the team as our new Operations Manager. With a wealth of refugee related experience in both Thailand and abroad, K. Pat has worked for the University of Hohenheim as a researcher, Solidarites International as Program Manager, Jesuit Refugee Service as Country Director, and Voluntary Service Overseas as a Program Development Specialist. She has graduated from Passau University, Germany and has a keen interest in both refugee and migrant issues.
June 12-13: Global Conference on Children on the Move, Berlin, Germany
June 14-16: UNHCR NGO Annual Consultations, Geneva
From 14-16 June, UNHCR and NGO partners will gather in Geneva for their Annual Consultations. This year’s theme is “The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF)”.
June 20: World Refugee Day
June 28 – 30: UNHCR Standing Committee 69th Meeting, Geneva
June 29 – 1 July: Global Forum on Migration and Development, Berlin, Germany
July 3-4: People’s Global Action on Migration, Development & Human Rights, Berlin, Germany
August 19: World Humanitarian Day
September 20-21: UNHCR Standing Committee 70th Meeting, Geneva
October 2-6: UNHCR Executive Committee 68th Meeting, Geneva
November (tbc): APRRN Annual Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy, Bangkok, Thailand
December 6-7: High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, Geneva