JUNE 2018 ISSUE

Welcome to APRRN’s second newsletter for 2018! As expected, the first half of 2018 has been a hotbed of activity. With the Global Compact on Migration on Global Compact on Refugees processing at a rapid pace, many of our members have been extremely busy. The past few months has also seen APRRN embark on a series of outreach trips and scoping missions to in an effort to better support and understand our members across the region. We hope you enjoy this issue and look forward to whatever the next six months may bring!

If you have any questions or comments please email Evan at Evan@aprrn info.

1. APRRN EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES:

  • Webster University Career Fair (April 2018)
  • APRRN Outreach Mission to Afghanistan (April 2018)
  • 2nd Annual Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable and ICVA Workshop (May 2018)
  • APRRN Rohingya Taskforce Mission to Bangladesh (May 2018)

2. INTERNATIONAL ADVOCACY:

  • South Asia Regional Civil Society Consultation on the Global Compact for Migration (March 2018)
  • APRRN-RCOA Scoping Mission to Malaysia and the Thai-Burma Border (March 2018)
  • SAPA Annual Strategy Meeting (April 2018)
  • Safety, Stability and Wellbeing: Accessing the Thai Justice System and State Policy Workshop (May 2018)
  • Advocating for Alternatives to Immigration Detention for Children Workshop (May 2018)
  • Thailand Diplomatic Briefing (May 2018)

3. OF INTEREST:

  • Staff Changes
  • 7th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR7)
  • APRRN in the Media
  • Upcoming Events

APRRN EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES

Webster University Career Fair (APRIL 2018)

On the 4th of April 2018, Evan Jones and Matt Potts from the APRRN Secretariat attended the Webster University Thailand’s half day Career and Internship Fair, held at Empire Tower in Sathorn.

This event is a biannual opportunity for students to meet and talk with businesses, organisations and potential employers from a range of areas from the non-government and business sectors. Following an official welcome and keynote address, students were able to spend the afternoon meeting and talking with representatives from organisations and businesses. This provided opportunities for learning about different sectors, hearing about what different work involves on a day to day basis and also networking opportunities (including information about internships and job opportunities).

This year a total of 31 organisations and business were represented across a broad range of sectors. APRRN staff had an opportunity to share about the work of the network with more than 25 students. This included students from human rights and international relations related degrees, as well as business students and other disciplines. As well as an opportunity for information sharing and networking, the event also provided an opportunity to advertise upcoming positions within the APRRN Secretariat and potential internship opportunities.

APRRN Outreach Mission to Afghanistan (APRIL 2018)

From 20-27 April 2018, APRRN’s Programme Coordinator Evan Jones conducted a scoping mission to Kabul, Afghanistan. As part of a combined mission with the International Council for Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and APRRN’s member TABISH Organisation, the trip focused upon developing a clearer understanding of APRRN’s potential role for further support in the region. Meetings were held with a range of stakeholders including UNHCR, IOM, ACBAR, local organisations working on forced displacement and other relevant bodies. Many of the discussions revolved around the coordination and support for refugees and returnees, the complexity of large undocumented populations in Iran and Pakistan, increased returns, and secondary movements to Turkey and elsewhere. The issue of whether Afghanistan should also be classified as a “safe” country was raised on numerous occasions.

While in Kabul, APRRN also facilitated a workshop at the ACBAR, (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief & Development), General Assembly titled “Advocacy Opportunities for IDP and Refugee Protection in Afghanistan”. The workshop brought together approximately twenty ACBAR member organisations to discuss the main issues refugees currently faced and how these may be addressed via advocacy. For further information please contact Evan Jones at Evan@aprrn.info.

2nd Annual Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable and ICVA Workshop (MAY 2018)

IMG_5149The 2nd Annual Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable was held from May 1-2, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand. The roundtable sought to create a space for multi-actor regional dialogue on refugee protection in the Asia Pacific, facilitating an exchange of views under Chatham House rules and exploring the potential for strengthened cooperation and elaboration of ideas regarding positive approaches suited to Asia Pacific contexts. This includes specifically working towards ensuring that Asia civil society perspectives, particularly those with lived experience, are adequately represented within the crucial final stages of development of the GCR and GCM, engaging the commitments and conceptual underpinnings of the New York Declaration, and building on existing and emerging regional and country-level policies and practices with positive potential.

The roundtable also explored the potential of a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to refugee protection, including the meaningful participation of people with lived refugee experience, and how this might best be enlivened with a view to strengthening refugee protection in the context of mixed migration, large-scale influxes and humanitarian crises, protracted situations and urban contexts. Participants therefore were very diverse, including APRRN members, other NGOs as well as representatives from embassies, government agencies, donors, the World Bank, academia and others.

The workshop focused on key themes relevant to developments in our region:

  • Building national screening mechanisms
  • Strengthening livelihoods and legal access to labour markets
  • Strengthening attainment of durable solutions

For each of these themes specific and actionable opportunities for strengthened multi-actor dialogue and cooperation across priority thematic areas were identified.

The roundtable was preceded by a half-day workshop organised by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) which focused on the ‘whole-of-society’ approach, as articulated in the CRRF roll-out and the discussions on the GCR. The workshop was targeted to NGO and other non-State participants and served as additional preparation for their engagement in the APRRN Regional Protection Working Group Roundtable.

APRRN Rohingya Taskforce Mission to Bangladesh (May 2018)

Last year following attacks my militants on 25 August against 30 police posts in Myanmar, the Myanmar military engaged in a massive clearance operation, burning entire villages, and committing atrocities against the Rohingya population, forcing their expulsion from the country.  The military operations in Myanmar have displaced nearly 700,000 people, mostly women and children, across the border into Bangladesh, where massive efforts are underway to meet humanitarian needs in very difficult circumstances.  This brings the total number displaced to Bangladesh, along with those who had arrived earlier to nearly 1 million.

APRRN’s response to the situation to date has mostly been ad hoc and focused on statements, press releases, briefing papers and sharing of information. Therefore, in November 2017 the APRRN Steering Committee decided to establish a Rohingya Task Force in order to consider a more strategic engagement. The Task Force is headed by Lilianne Fan (Deputy Chair of APRRN and International Director of the Geutanyoe Foundation), and Chris Lewa (Chair of APRRN’s Statelessness Working Group and Director of the Arakan Project).

From 7-15 May 2018, Chris and Lilianne were accompanied by Brian Barbour (Chair of APRRN’s Regional Protection Working Group and Regional Refugee Protection Advisor at Act for Peace) on a field mission to Bangladesh, including Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar, and the refugee camps in Kutupalong and Jamtoli.  The objectives of the mission were primarily to meet with our local APRRN members and other key stakeholders, in order to gain a greater understanding of the situation to inform our strategy moving forward.  The participants returned from a very successful mission having over 30 different engagements with diverse stakeholders, and will continue to engage with partners over the next few months as they develop their conclusions and contribute to APRRN’s strategies moving forward.  The Task Force will seek to call stakeholders together at this year’s Asia Pacific Consultations on Refugee Rights in Bangkok in October.

INTERNATIONAL ADVOCACY

South Asia Regional Civil Society Consultation on the Global Compact for Migration (March 2018)

From 21-24 March 2018, migrant and refugee CSO representatives gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). APRRN’s Programme Coordinator Evan Jones and APRRN’s former Chair Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti were present during the consultations to provide inputs and commentary on the Compact.

29594464_1494770367316643_8441930751800806363_nThe consultation was organised by APRRN’s member Migrant Forum in Asia, in collaboration with Solidarity Center and the Nepal National Network for Safe Migration. During the first day of the program, participants were updated on some of the developments of the compact since the second round of intergovernmental negotiations. This was followed by in-depth discussions on four key thematic issues i.e. the definition between regular and irregular, the definition of migrants and refugees, plans for implementation and capacity building and follow-up/review.

Throughout the second day, discussions continued to progress around the four key thematic issues outlined above. This was followed by national level developments on the GCM and opportunities for CSO influence. Country level advocacy on the GCM was discussed with participants providing critiques on each others’ plans and strategies going-forward.

APRRN is continuing to engage in both Global Compacts via our Regional Protection Working Group.

APRRN-RCOA Scoping Mission to Malaysia and the Thai-Burma Border (March 2018)

Between 23 and 31 March 2018, a delegation from the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network spent nine days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and on the Thailand-Myanmar border to meet with refugees and asylum seekers and the organisations that support them.

The main objective of the scoping mission was to strengthen APRRN and RCOA’s understanding of the perspectives of Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers residing on the Thailand–Myanmar border and in Malaysia, and of organisations working closely with these populations. The mission sought to further identify and assess the needs and priorities for advocacy support and establish a better understanding of their views for potential future voluntary repatriation or other durable solutions.

While, APRRN has established a Task Force which focuses on advocacy for the Rohingya and, while it remains a priority area for APRRN’s work, it is imperative for the network also to progress and refine its strategy for support for the approximately 180,000 Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers residing in Southeast Asia who are from other states of Myanmar. These refugees, some of whom have been displaced for between 20 and 30 years, were the focus of this scoping mission.

IMG_4548The delegation met with representatives of over twenty NGOs, CBOs and refugee communities initially in Malaysia and then on the Thailand – Myanmar border representing people from the Chin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan and Kachin ethnic minority groups. Some of the key preliminary findings of the mission included; The message that while many refugees in Malaysia and Thailand hope to someday return to Myanmar and see this as the best long-term, durable solution, a majority do not yet feel that the conditions are safe to do so. Secondly, funding cuts by the international community to the Thailand-Myanmar border are creating a worsening situation and increasing protection concerns for those living in the camps. Another message was also that a lack of information and/or communication with some refugee communities is leading to uncertainty about conditions in particular areas of Myanmar and concerns about the lack of a clear roadmap for safe, dignified and voluntary return when the conditions are right to do so.

As follow up to the mission, a Diplomatic Briefing was held shortly after the end of the scoping mission (see below report). Along with a Diplomatic Briefing Paper, which was distributed at the event, a full report of the mission is currently being completed and will be finalized in the coming weeks. Other follow up actions from the Scoping Mission include relationship building and information sharing with the diplomatic community regarding the current situation, as well as ongoing communication, information sharing and advocacy planning with organisations and refugee communities from both Malaysia and the Thailand-Myanmar border.

SAPA Annual Strategy Meeting (April 2018)

On 5 April 2018, Sussi Prapakranant, APRRN’s Programme Officer, joined the SAPA Annual Strategy Meeting held aboard the Peaceboat in Singapore.

The 1-day meeting provided an opportunity to strengthen and maintain coordination among members and partners of SAPA. It also served as a space for SAPA members and partners for sharing information and updates in regards to key human rights issues in the region such as the increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association that leads to shrinking civic space, as well as national situations, such as the severe crackdown on HRDs and civil society in Cambodia, the Rohingya crisis, and extrajudicial killings in Philippines.

A review and assessment of SAPA’s workplan including the result of advocacy and CSOs’ engagement with the ASEAN Human Rights mechanisms and bodies, particularly the AICHR and the ACWC in 2017 was undertaken. Strategic discussions were held around SAPA’s 2018 work plan and activities, including SAPA’s upcoming involvement in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) 2018, which will be held in Singapore later this year, a regional dialogue on racial and religious discrimination to address Rohingya issues, AICHR regional dialogue, among others topics.

A session was held with AICHR representatives from Indonesia and Malaysia, centering on discussions around key activities and opportunities for promoting and protecting Human Rights in the region. One outcome of the fruitful discussions during the session was a joint statement on the situation of Rohingya and the need for ASEAN to play a decisive role in identifying, and developing long-term solutions to the ongoing, evolving refugee crisis. The full statement can be found here.

APRRN has been engaged with, and served as the thematic focal point for refugees within SAPA (Solidarity for ASEAN Peoples Advocacy) since 2010. APRRN continues to represent refugee rights concerns within SAPA, actively participating in SAPA meetings, usually twice a year. Since 2016 we have been able to increasingly make (forced) migration a strategic focus of SAPA given the situation in Myanmar and massive outflows of Rohingya refugees. SAPA meetings have also provided for a space to engage more closely with AICHR representatives.

Safety, Stability and Wellbeing: Accessing the Thai Justice System and State Policy Workshop (May 2018)

From 21-23 May 2018, APRRN Secretariat staff participated in a workshop organized by the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP) titled “Safety, Stability and wellbeing: Accessing Thai Justice System and State Policy”. Workshop participants were comprised of refugee representatives and refugee organisations including Asylum Access Thailand (AAT), the Centre for Asylum Protection (CAP), Caritas Bangkok, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Umatee, the Rohingya Association of Thailand, Life Raft International, and the Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University.

Over the course of the three days, participants discussed a range of pertinent issues including: the international refugee rights regime, Thai law, refugee rights in Thailand, and access to the Thai justice system. On the last day of the workshop, NGO and refugee participants paired together to discuss the knowledge garnered during the workshop. It is anticipated that by early June 2018 each refugee community represented at the workshop will have their own concrete outreach plan. A training manual will also be finalised in August 2018.

Advocating for Alternatives to Immigration Detention for Children Workshop (May 2018)

From 16-17 May 2018, the International Detention Coalition hosted a Theory of Change Workshop titled “Advocating for Alternatives to Immigration Detention for Children” in Bangkok, Thailand. Participants included organisations that provide direct services to refugees, as well as those focusing on advocacy such as Asylum Access Thailand (AAT), ChildLine, the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP), Fortify Rights, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Step Ahead, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The workshop focused on developing a Theory of Change to build a common understanding on how advocacy for Alternatives to Detention (ATD) in Thailand can be strengthened. In addition, the workshop also provided participants with the skills and knowledge required to further develop strategies for enhancing communication with external stakeholders and other potential allies. The agenda included topics such as: the current situation regarding immigration detention in Thailand, a review of current activities by participants to end immigration detention of children, and developing advocacy goals. The final report from the report will be disseminated in due course.

Thailand Diplomatic Briefing (May 2018)

On 7 May 2018, a Diplomatic Briefing was jointly held by APRRN and Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the briefing was kindly hosted and supported by the German Embassy in Bangkok to discuss issues related to refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar in Malaysia and Thailand.

The briefing served as a follow-up activity to an APRRN & RCOA scoping mission to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and to the Thailand-Myanmar border, which took place from 23 to 31 March 2018. During the mission, the delegation met with refugees to gain insights about their views on the steps they believe are needed to secure durable solutions in Myanmar or elsewhere, including the prospects for future voluntary repatriation should conditions become conducive.

DSC07767An overview of the situation for primarily Karen refugees on the Thai- Myanmar border was provided by a representative from the Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO). KWO has been working on the border as well as inside Myanmar, providing assistance to refugees, IDPs and refugee communities. A representative from the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) also shared insights of the situation for Shan IDPs on the border. The Chair of APRRN’s South East Asian Working Group then provided an overview of the legal framework related to refugees in Malaysia, and outlined some of the key concerns for Myanmar refugees in, and around Kuala Lumpur.

Following the presentations, an open discussion was held on how the diplomatic community can effectively engage and support these issues. Following the presentations, an open discussion was held on how the diplomatic community can effectively engage with refugee communities and CBOs/NGOs and support these issues.

The briefing was well-attended with representatives from about 17 diplomatic missions in Bangkok, along with a number of attendees from refugee service provider, and human rights organisations. APRRN and RCOA will continue their close communication with refugee CBOs and NGOs providing services and assistance to these populations in efforts to keep the diplomatic community abreast of developments, and conditions as they evolve, and of opportunities for these actors to engage with each other in identifying solutions.

OF INTEREST

STAFF CHANGES

After more than 7 years with APRRN, Julia Mayerhofer (APRRN’s current Secretary General) is moving on by the end of June. We would like to thank Julia for her leadership and her commitment in advancing the work of APRRN – she will be deeply missed. At the same time we are now looking for a new Secretary General, further details and information about the position can be found here.

7th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR7)

The 7th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR7) will be held from 23-25 October 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand. APCRR has been held in Bangkok (2009, 2010, 2014 and 2016) and in Seoul (2012). In 2016, APCRR6 was attended by over 140 participants from across the region working on refugee issues.

APCRR serves as platform to bring together refugee rights practitioners from around the region to discuss and strategise ways to address challenges and share good practices from around the region and the globe. This year’s theme “10 years of APRRN” will highlight the successes and achievements over the past 10 years but will also provide opportunities to discuss our strategies for moving forward as a network. Workshops and side sessions may focus on the two Global Compacts, the Rohingya crisis, post deportation monitoring and education among others. At APCRR7 the Working Groups will also have an opportunity to discuss their action plans and strategies for 2018-2020. Lastly, APCRR is also the general body meeting for APRRN and is the forum where members elect the APRRN Steering Committee and provide input for the APRRN strategic plan.

Call for Applications: The application to participate in APCRR7 is now open. APRRN organisational and individual members are encouraged to apply. We also welcome non-members to join APCRR7 (except for the General Assembly).

Application link: Please click here for the application form.

Funding support: Funding support will be available for a limited number of participants. Funded participants will be determined by the APCRR7 Preparation Committee and will be assessed against set criteria.

Contact: For any inquiries relating to APCRR7 please contact Evan Jones at Evan@aprrn.info.

APRRN IN THE MEDIA

Phnom Penh Post – Refugee advocates seek resolution for Syrian man stranded at KL airport

Phnom Penh Post – RCAF ‘observing’ in Thailand, with photos showing army-plated vehicles in Bangkok

Phnom Penh Post – Increased police presence puts Montagnard refugees on edge in Phnom Penh

Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna – Afghanistan ännu mer osäkert

TRT World – Afghanistan and the False Sense of Security

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 4-8: 5th Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration, New York, USA

June 4-8: APRRN’s South Asia Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy, Bangalore, India

June 12-13: 5th Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland

June 19-21: UNHCR 72nd Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland

June 27-29: UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs, Geneva, Switzerland

July 3-4: 6th Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland

July 9-13: 6th Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration, New York, USA

October 23-25: The Seventh Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights, Bangkok, Thailand

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