MARCH 2017 ISSUE

The purpose of this newsletter is to update members on APRRN activities within the last three months. Check out our first issue of the year as we provide updates on the Taiwan’s Second Review of its obligations under the ICCPR & ICESCR, Australian advocacy, post-deportation monitoring, and many other projects we have been involved in.

If you have any questions, concerns, comments or corrections, please email Jessica at Jessica@aprrn info.

1. APRRN Events and Activities:

  • Capacity Building Workshop on Alternatives to Detention (February 2017)
  • Post Deportation Monitoring Project (Ongoing)

2. International Advocacy:

  • Taiwan’s Second Review of its obligations under ICCPR and ICESCR (January 2017)
  • Regional Alternatives Conference and Bi-lateral Meetings with Australian MPs (February 2017)
  • Solidarity ASEAN Peoples’ Advocacies (SAPA) Annual Meeting (February 2017)

3. OF INTEREST:

  • APRRN in the Media
  • Indonesia’s Presidential Decree on Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Reception Centre Opens in Kabul for Returnees and Forced Deportees
  • APRRN’s Engagement in the Advocacy Response to Trump’s Ban on Refugee Admissions
  • APRRN Press Release: Papua New Guinea Must Guarantee Safety of Iranian Refugee Loghman Sawari
  • APRRN Press Release: Long-Term Solutions Needed for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan
  • APRRN Urgent Statement: ‘Rohingya Island’ Proposal is Dangerous, Absurd and Inhumane
  • APRRN Statement: Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu
  • APRRN Statement: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Need Safety and Security
  • Refugee Youth Documentary: “Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope”
  • NGO Statement to UNHCR’s Standing Committee Meeting on Operations
  • APRRN Staff Updates

APRRN Events and Activities

Capacity Building Workshop on Alternatives to Detention (March 2017)

On 8-10 March, the International Detention Coalition (IDC) and APRRN co-organised a two-and-a-half-day capacity building workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia attended by twenty-six civil society participants from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Australia.

Prior to the workshop, participants completed an online short course on case management offered through IDC’s online training toolkit. Consisting of eight modules, the case management course introduced key theoretical concepts on the use of case management within the context of immigration detention and its importance in relation to an effective and successful alternative to immigration detention (ATD).

To help participants gain a better understanding of how case management works in practice, the first day of the workshop began with a site visit to two group homes for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Indonesia. Participants were split into two groups that each visited one shelter operated by Church World Service (CWS). During the site visit, CWS staff presented an overview of their case management system and described the referral process, how they conduct screening and assessment, and how they develop and manage a case plan. The presentation also highlighted some of the practical challenges the organisation has faced while running the shelters, including how to effectively operate the case management system with limited resources and how to manage a working relationship with the immigration authorities. After the presentation, the groups met with the youth living in the shelters and shared a lunch that was specially prepared by the youth.

Following this firsthand learning experience of how to operate a shelter program as an alternative to immigration detention, the next day introduced participants to IDC’s in-depth research into ATDs. Dr. Robyn Sampson and Vivienne Chew facilitated training sessions that delved into the theory and practice of IDC’s Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model. Within country teams, participants were given case studies to consider which positive policies and practices exist within their national contexts to gain insight into how this process is applied differently to foreigners based on particular factors. This group work provided a basis for participants to gain a better understanding of how to tailor their advocacy efforts.

The final day focused on advocacy strategies for overcoming tough audiences. Dr. Robyn Sampson and Vivienne Chew reviewed the most common responses governments provide as arguments for dismissing alternatives to immigration detention and discussed practical tactics for countering these arguments. Participants then split into groups to practice formulating effective advocacy messages during a role play exercise. According to survey feedback, many participants expressed how having the opportunity to practice advocating to different government actors proved to be highly valuable and relevant to their work, especially in terms framing their approach to best influence government policy.

For more information, please check out IDC’s online toolkit, which is available for free to non-IDC members for a limited time.

Post Deportation Monitoring Project (Ongoing)

There has been a growing recognition within the network to raise awareness of “post-deportation monitoring” and a project that was started by the Rights in Exile Programme. Many of us work with rejected asylum seekers that may be at risk of deportation and many APRRN members are aware that rejected asylum seekers post-deportation often face great risks upon their return. They may be subject to arrest, detention, torture and other forms of harassment and even death. What happens to them is often unknown.

Through APRRN we have seen more and more members reaching out to us and asking us to introduce them to members in countries of origin that can provide support post-deportation cases. We have addressed these requests informally in the past however would like to expand this work via the Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group (LAAWG). Many members may have heard about the Post Deportation Monitoring project started by Rights in Exile. The project is currently led by a volunteer coordinator – Alessandra Di Cataldo, (alessandra.dicataldo@gmail.com). On their website their is a directory of organsiations in countries of origin that can provide support and we are hoping that APRRN members can not only use this directory but also help us to build it. Please get in touch with Evan at the APRRN Secretariat at Evan@aprrn.info if you provide this support and want to be added to the directory.

APRRN is also looking to organise a webinar to introduce this project and also to discuss post deportation monitoring in a more general way. We are currently trying to gauge levels of interest so please do let us know if you wish to participate in such a webinar.

International Advocacy

Taiwan’s Second Review of its Obligations under the ICCPR and ICESCR (January 2017)

From 16-18 January 2017, APRRN participated in the 2017 Review Meeting of the Republic of China’s Second Report under both the ICCPR and ICESCR United Nations Conventions. More information on the overall review can be found here.

APRRN was represented by Brian Barbour (Japan Association for Refugees), Evan Jones (APRRN Secretariat) and Eeeling Chiu (Taiwan Association for Human Rights).  During the review the independent expert panel quizzed the Taiwan Government on their commitments under the ICCPR and ICESCR. In this process, NGOs were also heavily involved with the ability to make statements under the different review themes. The panel made three concluding recommendations to the Taiwanese Government specifically related to refugees including: a reiteration from 2013 to adopt national legislation to protect refugees, the absolute need to observe the principle of non-refoulement, and a recommendation for the Taiwan Legal Aid Foundation to provide legal support to refugees and asylum seekers regardless of their status. For further information please see APRRN’s press release here.

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Regional Alternatives Conference and Bilateral Meetings with Australian MPs (February 2017)

16722572_1208229169293407_424410996091360787_oFrom the 22-23 February 2017, the Refugee Council of Australia, in conjunction with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), brought together a range of experts to discuss topics such as displacement; protection; cooperation; wellbeing; resilience; education; advocacy; and unity. These were discussed by stakeholders working in the local, regional and international arena, and notably included a lot of individuals that were able to contribute their lived experience. More information on the conference can be found here. APRRN was strongly represented with Yiombi Thona, Lilianne Fan, Tamara Domicelj, Arash Bordbar and Najeeba Wazefadost in attendance amongst many others. APRRN members acted as panelists, moderators and keynote speakers throughout the two days.

Following on from the Regional Alternatives Conference, a small delegation of APRRN representatives made their way to Canberra for a series of meetings with parliamentarians, government officials and UNHCR. The meetings highlighted the several small positive movements towards refugee protection occurring in the region and how Australia can support these steps. The delegation consisted of Paul Power, Yiombi Thona, Najeeba Wazefadost and Evan Jones.

Solidarity ASEAN Peoples’ Advocacies (SAPA)  Annual Meeting (February 2017)

It has been almost 8 years since the establishment of the ASEAN human rights mechanisms, namely: the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). Throughout this period, SAPA (Solidarity for ASEAN People’s Advocacies) Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights has been working tirelessly for credible, independent, and effective human rights mechanisms in the region, applying universal human rights law and standards.

From 13-14 February, APRRN’s Senior Programme Officer Helen Brunt represented the network at this meeting. Given the current challenges and opportunities available in the region, it is crucial for APRRN and SAPA to improve its strategy in advocating for refugees and human rights in ASEAN. To this end, the SAPA annual strategy meeting was held to discuss and coordinate various initiatives and use of resources within its network in order to continue its advocacy towards ASEAN.

Key objectives of the Annual SAPA Strategy Meeting were to:

  • Review and assess SAPA advocacy in 2016
  • Share and assess the current human rights situation in ASEAN
  • Discuss an advocacy strategy for 2017 and beyond
  • Develop a collective advocacy plan for 2017 and beyond
  • Strengthen and maintain coordination among members and partners of SAPA

Following two days of vibrant discussions, it was agreed that APRRN would remain as the SAPA ‘focal point’ for refugee rights/forced migration issues for next year. In addition, it was agreed that SAPA needs to focus more on the intersectionality of human rights issues if it is to be a force to challenge and create robust dialogue with ASEAN.

Of Interest

APRRN in the Media

Over the past few months APRRN has been featured in a few media articles across the region. Some include:

www.livelaw.in/statelessness-may-lead-many-grave-violations-human-rights-interview-prof-sanoj-rajan-governing-board-member-members-statelessness-network-asia-pacific-snap/

www.humanosphere.org/human-rights/2017/02/u-n-complicit-in-mass-forced-return-of-afghan-refugees-watch-group-says/

www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/88933872/why-should-kiwis-care-about-trumps-muslim-and-refugee-restrictions

www.stripes.com/news/pacific/myanmar-refugees-may-be-hurt-most-by-trump-resettlement-cuts-1.458887#.WNi2KFdGWvM

Indonesia’s Presidential Decree on refugees and asylum seekers

On 31 December 2016, the Government of Indonesia passed a Presidential Decree regarding refugees from abroad. This regulation confirms Article 28G of the Indonesian Constitution and Article 25 – 27 of Law No. 37 of 1999 on Foreign Relations, which provides a legal basis for how the government should respond to refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. In particular, the Presidential Decree upholds the international legal definition contained within the 1951 Refugee Convention and provides general permission for government ministries and relevant agencies to allocate resources to ensure refugee protection.

For more information, please see SUAKA’s press release here.

Reception Centre Opens in Kabul for Returnees and Forced Deportees

In January 2017, Tabish Organization opened a new reception centre in Kabul that provides legal aid, psychosocial and protection services for returnees and forced deportees. This comprehensive protection program is designed to support returnees and deportees during the transitional period as they locally integrate back into Afghanistan.

To learn more about the reception centre, please contact Dr. Wais Aria, Executive Director of Tabish Organization (aria_popal@hotmail.com).

APRRN’s Engagement in the Advocacy Response to Trump’s Ban on Refugee Admissions

In the wake of U.S. President Trump’s controversial executive order that established a travel ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, APRRN coordinated several activities to raise awareness of the critical consequences of the disastrous policy.

As an immediate response, APRRN issued a press release voicing grave concern over the proposed prolongation for recognised refugees to receive international protection in the United States, which can be viewed here.

In addition, APRRN Chair Yiombi Thona wrote an op-ed that was published in the Huffington Post.

APRRN’s East Asia Working Group Chair Victoria Wisniewski Otero also wrote an article featured in the South China Morning Post.

Finally, in order to contribute to the good work that took place in the US and our own work in the Asia Pacific, APRRN put out a call to our members with guidance on what to do if they identified persons whose refugee resettlement or other plans to travel to the US were stalled, delayed, or cancelled here in Asia. The goal put simply was identification of persons affected by the Trump refugee ban.

APRRN Press Release: Papua New Guinea Must Guarantee Safety of Iranian Refugee Loghman Sawari

In response to the deportation of a twenty-one year old Iranian refugee from Suva, Fiji to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea by Fijian authorities, APRRN issued a press release calling on the government of Papua New Guinea to drop all charges against the refugee youth and instead allow him to lodge an asylum claim as part of Fiji’s duty to uphold its obligations as a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and to customary international law.

The full press release can be found here.

APRRN Press Release: Long-Term Solutions Needed for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

In response to the recent extension of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards for Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan, APRRN produced a press release calling on the Government of Pakistan to take a long-term approach to refugee protection by extending the PoR cards to provide long-term certainty for Afghan refugees.

The press release can be found here.

APRRN Urgent Statement: “Rohingya Island’ Proposal is Dangerous, Absurd and Imhumane

The proposal by the Government of Bangladesh to relocate tens of thousands of stateless Rohingya refugees to the remote island of Thengar Char is dangerous, absurd and inhumane. APRRN issued a call for action to the Bangladesh Government to:

  1. Immediately cease any plans for relocation of Rohingya to Thengar Char
  2. Provide the Rohingya with protection, freedom of movement, adequate shelter, access to humanitarian services and means of livelihood whilst within the borders of Bangladesh
  3. Allow UNHCR to extend its protection mandate to unregistered refugees, in particular the 69,000 newly arrived who fled atrocities during military operations in northern Rakhine.

To view the full statement, please see here.

APRRN Statement: Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu

APRRN released a statement urging the Government of India to act immediately to provide protection to Rohingya refugees living in Jammu, who suffer from forced evictions, slow genocidal and hate campaigns, demonstrations, and restrictions on Rohingya attending their places of work.

To view the full statement, please visit here.

APRRN Statement: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Need Safety and Security

In response to a recent spike in harassment, arbitrary arrest and bribery by law enforcement agencies towards Afghan refugees, APRRN released a statement urging the Government of Pakistan to act immediately to provide protection to registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

For the full statement, please see here.

Refugee Youth Documentary: “Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope”

On 22 February, 2017, Burma Link, the Karen Student Network Group (KSNG) and the Karen Youth Organisation (KYO) released a new 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.

In an interview with Burma Link about the significance and relevance of the film, APRRN Secretary General Julia Mayerhofer stated:

“As advocacy organisations, we have to explore how we can provide platforms, means and channels for affected communities to advocate for themselves, and how we can strengthen their capacity and skills in doing so instead of speaking on behalf of them. Refugee youth need to be included in political processes and advocacy because they know and they understand the challenges they experience the best, and they often also know the solutions and ways to address the challenges the best. Youth also understand the issues of their communities often really well, so I think that they can act as really powerful advocates in different platforms that could be national, regional, or international in New York and Geneva. I think their voices have a lot of power and that is really the value that they bring to the discussions.”

The initial launch and press conference was held in Yangon, Burma on 22 February 2017 and was attended by 50 guests from media, academia, and civil society, including Burma-based youth organisations. Youth activists involved in the development of the film gave presentations on the situation in the refugee camps from the youth perspective and highlighted the concerns of the refugee youth.

A similar launch event will be held in Bangkok in late April 2017 – please contact Jessica Darby (jessica@aprrn.info) for more information.

To watch the full documentary online, please visit this page.

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NGO Statement to UNHCR’s Standing Committee Meeting on Operations

For the third year in a row, APRRN facilitated the consultative process for the NGO statement on Asia and the Pacific, which was read during UNHCR’s Standing Committee Meeting on Operations held in Geneva on 14-17 March 2017.

Please find this year’s NGO statement from Asia here on ICVA’s website. For the full list of NGO statements delivered at the 68th Meeting of UNCHR’s Standing Committee, please visit ICVA’s website.

APRRN Staff Updates

During the first few months of 2017, the APRRN Secretariat has seen a number of staff changes. Our current Finance Manager, Ms. Praphai Jundee, has taken the decision to retire and to spend her time travelling the world and spending more time with her family. We wish her all the best and hope that she has a relaxing yet adventurous retirement. In her replacement we welcome Ms. Issaree Dinsamutra as APRRN’s new Finance Manager. With many years experience in the sector we feel that K. Issaree will be a welcome addition to the team.

In addition, APRRN’s Senior Programme Officer Helen Brunt has recently left the Secretariat to take up a position with the IFRC. Still based in Bangkok, we are confident that Helen will remain actively involved in APRRN into the future. Her expertise and contributions over the past two and a half years have been invaluable, and we are grateful for her tireless commitment to advancing refugee rights. Subsequently, APRRN is currently in the process of recruiting a Programme Officer to fill this vacancy.

Finally, the APRRN Steering Committee has taken a recent decision to promote Julia Mayerhofer to the position of Secretary General on a permanent basis. Julia has a deep relationship with members and donors alike and also has an unparalleled understanding of the network. Julia has led the network through several challenging years, during which she has strengthened relationships and instituted sound financial management systems. She shows an amazing dedication and commitment to the Secretariat and the Network. At the same time there will be some structural changes to the Secretariat. Evan Jones will be promoted to Programme Coordinator overseeing APRRN’s programmes, while an Operations Coordinator will be recruited shortly to ensure smooth and efficient operations of the Secretariat office.

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