Check out this issue for updates on the UNHCR 2016 Annual Consultations with NGOs, the recent ASEAN Civil Society Conference, South East Asia Conference on Rohingya, our upcoming Interpreter training, meeting with Refugee One in the USA and many other projects we have been working on.
The purpose of this newsletter is to update members on APRRN activities within the last three months. For a list of upcoming events, check out our APRRN Calendar for a list of events in the region.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments or corrections, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- UNHCR 2016 Annual Consultations with NGOs
- ASEAN People’s Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference
- Southeast Asia Conference on Rohingya
- Interpreter Reunion
- Malaysia Members Meeting
- APRRN’s engagement in High Level Meetings in New York
- OUR Workshop
- Asia Regional Strategy Meeting in Preparation for the 9th Global Forum on Migration and Development
- RefugeeOne Meeting
- Refugee Crisis: An Asian Experience
- Philippines: A Country With A Soul
- The Asia Pacific Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy
- Education University of Hong Kong Survey on Public Perception towards Refugees
- 2016 Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement
- Refugee Council of Australia Report on Australian Advocacy in Geneva
The UNHCR 2016 Annual Consultations with NGOs took place in June in Geneva, Switzerland during a time when more than 65 million people are forcibly displaced; a tally never before recorded in the history of UNHCR. The consultation brought together 30 youth delegates along with 520 representatives from 300 organisations in 87 countries with an emphasis on this year’s theme; “Youth – the future is now”. It was a culmination of conversations begun earlier in 2015 on the unique capacities and vulnerabilities of youth.
The integration of youth in the Annual Consultation provided fresh insight for the regional and thematic sessions. Feedback from NGO participants highlighted a genuine benefit to having refugees and stateless persons present and actively participating. During the sessions, 4 main themes emerged; an emphasis on opportunities for youth engagement and participation; a need for learning and employment opportunities for refugees; a need for psychosocial support and mental health services for displaced persons and the issuance of official identification documentations to refugees and stateless persons in a timely and systemic matter.
The APRRN Secretariat and many of its members have been attending the consultations since 2009. Many APRRN members have been engaged with the process for more than a decade, and have been instrumental in institutionalising the NGO-UNHCR consultations. In a relatively short period, APRRN as a network has achieved high visibility, primarily due to the targeted and effective interventions and constructive dialogues with UNHCR at the consultations and beyond. This year 50 APRRN members were present and actively involved as participants, moderators, note takers and panelists.
In the lead up to the consultations APRRN produced a video as well as a briefing paper that captured the voices of refugee youth across the region. They can be accessed via these links:
In addition to attending the Consultations, APRRN Secretariat staff and members also used the opportunity to meet with UNHCR staff (the Asia Bureau and Volker Tuerk) as well as permanent missions of various countries. APRRN was also present at several other side meetings such as the Statelessness Retreat, the IOM-NGO Consultations, the UNHCR RSD Retreat, the Annual Roundtable on Strategic Litigation as well as the Global Refugee Youth Consultations. Through the Global Refugee Youth Consultations (GRYC), a 7 point youth developed policy recommendation was drafted to address specific challenges that refugee youth face.
The full report of the UNHCR NGO Consultations can be read here
This year the ASEAN People’s Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference was held in Dili, East Timor. The theme of the conference was “Expanding People’s Solidarity for a Just and Inclusive ASEAN Community”. Some of the key issues raised during plenary sessions include the shrinking civic space observed across ASEAN; the limitations of NGOs as regional cooperation must always be “in accordance with the laws, regulations, and policies of respective ASEAN Members States”; the downgrading of interactions between governments and CSOs and participatory concerns in relation to the inclusion of government-sympathetic or government support NGOs (GONGOs) in APF/ACSC. This year APRRN was also present along with several other members involved in ASEAN work.
Two workshops were of particular note in relation to refugee issues: “Regional Cooperation to Ensure Protection of Rohingya” and “Promoting People-Centered and Workers-Centered ASEAN: A Call for Region-Wide Advocacy to Support Workers’ Rights in the Region.” On the Rohingya issue, it was noted that there have been no improvements in attitude from the Myanmar government. Many of the boats have been travelling directly to Malaysia rather than stopping in Thailand as a result of the 2015 crackdown. Following the mass graves incident, investigations have failed to prosecute any individuals. The Indonesian government has reportedly extended protection to Rohingya refugees. The workshop on “Promoting People-Centered and Workers-Centered ASEAN: A Call for Region-Wide Advocacy to Support Workers’ Rights in the Region” did not directly discuss refugees, it was however noted that refugees should be included in future documents pertaining to the protection of migrant workers. There was a general agreement that worker’s rights in ASEAN have led to a race to the bottom but that negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) can cement stronger labour protections for workers. It was also mentioned that an ASEAN Framework Instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers is currently being worked on, with a schedule for completion by April 2017.
For further information:
- Some of the discussion at the APF, can be found online here.
- The CSO statement is available here.
- The APF website and some of the key documents can be access via this link: http://aseanpeople.org/
On 18 & 19 May APRRN’s Programme Officer Helen Brunt, participated in the ‘South East Asia Conference on Rohingya’ held in Bogor, Indonesia. The international conference was co-hosted by SEAHUM, a network of humanitarian organisations across Southeast Asia, and Dompet Dhuafa, an Indonesian non-profit organisation established to raise the social dignity of the poor through ZISWAF (Zakat, Infaq/Alms, Waqf/endowments and other social funds).
Over 50 stakeholders came together to discuss the current political and humanitarian situation in Myanmar after the country’s first democratic General Election in November 2015, the Indonesian Government’s and ASEAN’s commitment and simultaneous support for the human rights protection for Rohingya people in Myanmar, potential of cooperation between ASEAN INGOs/NGOs working on Rohingya issues, and opportunities for Islamic humanitarian financing and Islam’s perspective on refugees
Helen was invited to present on ‘Laws and Policies for Asylum-seekers and refugees among Southeast Asian nations’, a valuable opportunity to offer a regional overview to the specific case of Rohingya refugees and also draw out connections between forced displacement and statelessness. In addition, it provided the chance for APRRN to engage at the national (Indonesian) level both with existing APRRN members (such as Suaka and the Geutanyoe Foundation) and meet many new refugee rights advocates representing civil society organisations, academia and local government. Through the conference there was active discussion amongst ASEAN citizens about the roles and responsibilities, opportunities and short-comings of ASEAN as a regional mechanism, and how civil society might better engage with ASEAN, considering the paradox of the ‘non-interference principle’ versus the humanitarian imperative of the responsibility to protect.
It was inspiring to meet so many passionate Indonesian students, and to introduce APRRN to local academics with an interest in refugee and statelessness issues, as well as learning from local CSOs working on the ground in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.
On the back of a trip to train community interpreters working with NGOs in Indonesia, Alice Johnson, Director of the Cairo Community Interpreter Project, made time to drop by Bangkok to re-connect with the cohort of community interpreters working with NGOs in Thailand whom she trained in November 2015.
A ‘One Day Masterclass’ was held at the Asia Centre on 25 May and 13 of the original group of 24 interpreters were able to reunite with Alice six months after they completed their training. Not only was this a chance for the participants to refresh and refine their interpreting skills, but also cement their friendships and the bond they hold through providing vital interpreting services to asylum seekers and refugees in Thailand.
Whilst in Bangkok, Alice also consulted with Interpreter Coordinators amongst APRRN’s member organisations in Thailand to elicit suggestions for future training and capacity strengthening needs in their respective settings. As a result of these discussions, we will be warmly welcoming Alice back to Bangkok at the end of September to provide training for another cohort of community interpreters, as well as providing ‘on-the-job’ training for Interpreter Coordinators to strengthen the institutional systems within service-providing organisations in Bangkok
In July, APRRN’s Programme Officer Helen Brunt travelled to Kuala Lumpur to meet with APRRN’s members and partners. The Malaysian Bar Council generously hosted the meeting which was attended by 18 people who work with and for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people across the country. During the meeting, participants discussed the outcomes from APRRN’s Legal Aid & Advocacy Working Group (LAAWG) ‘Regional Retreat on Refugee Status Determination (RSD): Strategies to Promote Protection Inside and Outside of RSD’ which was held in Bangkok in April, as well as sharing their views on the roll-out of UNHCR Malaysia’s new identity cards for refugees and asylum seekers which contain biometric data and a QR code which can be scanned using a mobile ‘app’.
During the meeting, Helen shared news of recent consultations with refugee youth groups in Thailand and Pakistan, and enquired whether there would be enthusiasm for a consultation with refugee youth in Malaysia in the near future. Fast forward two months and that Refugee Youth Consultation in Malaysia is now a reality! Watch out for a report of this event in the next APRRN newsletter!
Helen was also able to provide an update on the planning for the 6th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR6), to be held in Bangkok on 20-22 September 2016 and which many of APRRN’s members from Malaysia will be attending.
Whilst in KL, Helen took the opportunity meet with Malaysia’s newly-appointed Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Mr Edmund Bon. Several of APRRN’s members in Malaysia also joined the meeting and familiarised Mr Bon with APRRN’s core pillars of work and thematic foci, as well as drawing to his attention specific areas where it is hoped he would like to engage with civil society, in particular alternatives to immigration detention in Malaysia, and the plight of stateless Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. We look forward to building a fruitful and collaborative relationship with Mr Bon during his tenure as Malaysia’s Representative to AICHR!
APRRN’s engagement in High Level Meetings in New York
In preparation for the September 19 High Level Summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, APRRN joined the self-organised Civil Society “HLM Action Committee”. The Action Committee is being co-convened by ICMC, ICVA and the NGO Committee on Migration (New York) and is comprised of twenty NGO’s with longstanding expertise and experience on refugee, migrant, forced displacement and human rights issues. Read the terms of reference for the Civil Society HLM Action Committee.
APRRN has signed on the “new deal” – a 5-page statement that an increasing number of civil society groups of all kinds and regions were advocating for. It contains key, baseline “starting points” that civil society is asking states to incorporate in the Summit Outcome document and commitments that they have just negotiated over the month of July in New York. The document is based on input from 140 civil society organizations around the world who either completed an online survey or submitted key messages in their applications to the UN to participate in Summit processes. It was written by a diverse group of 22 refugee protection and migrant rights groups active in all regions of the world. The purpose of the “new deal”—and the sign-on’s—is to provide a common reference that can be used either as, or with, an organization’s own advocacy directly with governments.
The month of July was very much focused on negotiating the outcome document of the Summit – APRRN circulated the drafts for members and send inputs to the Action Committee to ensure that concerns from the region are reflected. Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti and Yiombi Thona, Chair and Deputy Chair of APRRN, then joined the interactive multi-stakeholder hearing on 18 July in New York. Yiombi Thona was selected as one of the speakers during the session on the Global Compact for refugees. Recording and details of the hearing available here.
Yiombi and Dr.Gopal also joined a preparatory meeting on September 17 which other civil society organisations present – this was an informal space for civil society to meet and strategise.
The Civil Society Action Committee also set up a website, with all key documents- it can be accessed here.
Please also check out the September newsletter for the latest update on the preparations: http://made.civ.
On August 5-6 APRRN member ‘Open Universities for Refugees’ hosted the OUR/UNHCR, Malaysia, C3 Forum (Collaborate, Create, Change) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The aim of the meeting was to bring together those concerned with secondary and tertiary level education and refugee related issues in the region to explore how access to higher education opportunities for refugees in Kuala Lumpur might be improved. In addition, there was a focus was on forming active consortia and projects that, together, could work towards practical goals to this end.
Evan Jones from the APRRN Secretariat attended the meeting in an effort to further understand the use of education and scholarships as an alternate protection mechanism for refugees and asylum seekers. Over the course of the two days a number of issues related to education were discussed. This included: on-line education, the legal status of refugee students, bridging courses and connectivity between secondary education and universities, funding, language barriers and vocational education.
The final sessions of Day 2 of the 3C Forum were devoted to the development of actions plans. Participants developed action plans regarding on-line bridging courses and accessing new funding sources. Two core activities of these action plans were the hosting of ‘intercultural bazaars’ as a meeting point for Malaysian and refugee youth, and the formation of a coalition of NGOs to specifically focus upon the issue of education for refugee youth. APRRN has agreed to provide technical support and assistance to both of these core action points.
In preparation for the 2016 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), on the 26th and 27th of July, APRRN member Migrant Forum Asia organised the ‘Asia Regional Strategy Meeting in Preparation for the 9th Global Forum on Migration and Development’ in Bangkok, Thailand. Attended by Julia Mayerhofer and Evan Jones from the APRRN Secretariat, the meeting was a chance to discuss cross-sectoral collaboration and dialogue to explore and propose actions for substantive engagement in this year’s GFMD. The meeting also provided a chance to develop a common program of action for engagement with the 2016 GFMD that identified key dates for mobilization and preparatory activities.
Over the course of the two days, key regional CSO networks and trade unions working on migration discussed updates on global and regional inter-governmental processes on migration, specifically the GFMD and the UN High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Migrants and Refugees.
In 2016, the Global Forum on Migration and Development will be hosted by the government of Bangladesh. This will mark the ninth such intergovernmental meeting and the second time the GFMD will be hosted in Asia. This year’s GFMD will be held on 8-12 December 2016. The GFMD is informal, non-binding, voluntary and government led process which is organized annually with country of destination and origin hosting alternately. The overall theme of the Ninth GFMD is: “Migration that Works for Sustainable Development for All: Towards a transformative migration agenda”.
On 21st July APRRN’s Programme Officer Helen Brunt gave a presentation about stateless Rohingya refugees to the staff, co-sponsors and mentors at RefugeeOne, a resettlement agency in Chicago, USA.
In opening the event Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeOne, spoke how the city of Chicago and RefugeeOne have been welcoming refugees, particularly people from Burma, for many decades. Following this Jani Alam, a Rohingya gentlemen who, along with his family, was one of the first people to be resettled in Chicago in 2011 after spending 13 years as a refugee in Malaysia where he was married and his two daughters were born. Jani is now working with RefugeeOne as a social work and community interpreter – he speaks nine languages!
After Jani’s personal account, Helen described some of the challenges for refugee protection in South East Asia, as well as the historical and political background of Arakan/Rakhine state, unpacking the Rohingya’s stateless condition and its impacts, and the root causes in Burma which result in the Rohingya’s forced displacement. The majority of Rohingya being resettled in Chicago have been living as refugees in Malaysia, and this event provided an opportunity for Helen to discuss with the audience some of the differences between life for Rohingya in Malaysia and in Chicago – especially the differences in the weather! Several interesting questions were posed by the audience including about the actions of civil society in responding to the maritime movements and humanitarian crisis of May/June 2015 in South East Asia.
After the event, Helen was invited to visit the Rohingya Cultural Centre which opened in early 2016 and is a fantastic space for the 300+ Rohingya families who are now living in Chicago. The Centre offers space for community events, recreation and children’s education including Islamic education, Rohingya language classes and about learning about the history and geography of Arakan state.
RefugeeOne and the Rohingya Cultural Centre are very keen to stay connected to organisations and individuals working with and for Rohingya in other locations, especially Southeast Asia so we will keep you posted about future opportunities for collaboration.
APRRN member and chairman of SANRIM, Lakshan J.S. Dias wrote a poignant piece on the legal issues that surround refugees and statelessness in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong. The article seeks to provide an overview of the refugee crisis as it pertains to Asia and how lawyers can help with the situation.
The article can be found here.
Candide Massocki, a new arrived asylum seeker of Cameroonian descent who recently integrated into the Philippines, wrote an article on a refugee’s perceptions on resettlement. Through the article, he expresses the lack of accommodation more affluent nations are willing to provide to refugees whilst praising the progress the Philippines have made in refugee integration.
The article can be found here.
The Asia Pacific Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy is now open for registration! The Short Course is an initiative organised by the Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group (LAAWG) of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) at Mahidol University. The course aims to strengthen participants’ understanding of forced migration in the Asia Pacific through a human rights perspective.
More information can be found here.
Education University of Hong Kong Survey on Public Perception towards Refugees
A recent survey was conducted by the Education University of Hong Kong on the Cantonese-speaking public’s perception towards refugees and asylum seekers. The survey found that most participants were neutral towards refugees but that there is a lot of misunderstanding on the issue.
The results of the survey can be found here.
A follow-up to the survey was done by the Justice Centre Hong Kong in the form of an op-ed. The article details how some election campaigns play a divisive role in stereotyping refugees and can cause long-lasting damage to public perception
The article can be found here.
Organised by UNHCR, the Government of Netherlands and the Dutch Council for Refugees, the 2016 ATCR took place on 13-15 June. It brought together representatives of 30 nations involved in resettlement. The main themes discussed were; trends in resettlement and resettlement needs in the coming year; reviewing resettlement places and alternative admission pathways for Syrian refugees; strengthening public confidence in refugee resettlement and enhancing the success of refugees after arrival.
A full report of the 2016 ATCR can be found here.
In June 2016, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) joined Australian representatives of refugee communities and NGOs in a series of meetings in Geneva involving senior representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), NGOs and governments from around the world.
Questions asked by Australian delegates include those focused on children in detention, access to UNHCR offices, addressing power imbalances between refugees and UNHCR staff, gender and education, the lack of action on Nauru and PNG, the strategic use of resettlement in the Asia Pacific region, corruption around resettlement processing, and a range of country-specific protection issues raised by diaspora communities in Australia.
A full report can be downloaded from here.