Welcome to APRRN’s Newsletter for September 2018! Here is a glimpse into what APRRN has been working on the past 3 months. If you have any inquiries or feedback, kindly contact Rachel Tan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Secretariat undergoing a major leadership change
- APRRN in Almaty, Kazakhstan for Innovation for Change’s inter-regional retreat
- CSO, Thai government officials and embassies commemorating refugee resilience on World Refugee Day
- The very first APRRN Short Course in South Asia
REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ADVOCACY
- APRRN at UNHCR-NGO Consultations 2018
- Where APRRN is with the Global Compacts negotiations
- Asia Regional CSO Consultations on GCM
- Thai government and CSO on child rights and ending child detention
After 7 years of service, Secretary General Julia Mayerhofer announced her departure from APRRN with a heavy heart. Here are her last few words to all members:
“I am so incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity of being part of APRRN and such a wonderful dynamic network. This year APRRN is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and together we have achieved so much. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members – your work in such challenging environments inspired me every day.
Being at APRRN for 7 years has taught me so much, even life lessons. When we look at the bigger picture and see what is happening to refugees every day, it can be really frustrating to stay positive. But being at APRRN taught me that not all hope is lost.
While our long term goal seems years away and might sometimes even never be achieved, there are many small battles that have been won and can be won. I really think that we need to continue striving to see how we can change the system. Even if our effort is seemingly small, it is definitely worth the fight.
One other thing I bring forward with me is the importance of giving refugees a voice instead of trying to speak for them. Many have thanked me in the past for being a voice for the voiceless, but refugees are not voiceless and have a strong voice that needs to be heard. We, as NGOs, need to support them in doing so.
During my time as Secretary General I tried my best to do exactly that. Although I wasn’t 100% successful at it, I really tried to provide opportunities and platforms where refugees could self-advocate for their rights.
My gratitude goes to the Steering Committee for all the support and guidance over the last years. Last but never least, I am thankful and proud of our dedicated, passionate and committed Secretariat team – without them I could not do anything.”
Effective 1 July 2018, Programme Coordinator, Evan Jones, assumed the interim role to ensure a seamless and smooth transition. APRRN’s new Secretary General is expected to join the Secretariat in October 2018.
APRRN also welcomes the new Programme Associate, Rachel Tan, a new addition to the Secretariat. Having graduated from Monash University and worked in the corporate setting, she took the leap in joining Tenaganita, one of the key organisations that champion the cause of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. She was involved with work surrounding anti-trafficking efforts, community protection and support. Prior to joining APRRN, Rachel was a coordinator in International Catholic Migration Commission, focusing on GBV prevention and protection.
THE FIRST APRRN SHORT COURSE IN SOUTH ASIA IN BENGALURU, INDIA
4-8 JUNE 2018
After months of brainstorming and planning, the APRRN’s South Asia Working Group, APRRN Secretariat and The Centre for Research in Social Science and Education (CERSSE) of Jain University organised and hosted the very first ‘Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy’ in the region.
It was the first course of its kind to be held in South Asia, bringing together 16 participants from 8 countries across the region, which included NGO workers, academics, refugee lawyers, journalists, policy advocates, UNHCR representatives and refugees themselves.
Throughout the 5 days, key resource people facilitated the different sessions and gave valuable insights using their expertise and rich experience, especially with the understanding of international refugee protection frameworks and discovering different advocacy approaches.
Some of the interesting sessions covered include ‘Incorporating the Voice of Refugee Voices into Advocacy’, ‘Working with Media and Social Media’ as well as ‘Developing Advocacy Messages’ – all of which are useful in equipping participants with practical skills in advancing refugee rights in the region.
The Short Course was designed to be interactive, hence allowing spaces for mutual learning and more so, talks about future collaborations. Through the robust discussions, participants were able to gain practical skills and useful knowledge to improve their work in advancing refugee rights. It was a great opportunity for such a diverse group to exchange ideas, perspectives and to network together. Many brought in interesting views and suggestions to boost advocacy efforts in their own contexts.
The South Asia Short Course 2017 report can be found here
The APRRN’s Asia Pacific Short Course on Refugee Rights 2018 will be held in Bangkok from the 26-29 November 2018. Registration is now open and will close on the 22 September 2018. For more information, please see here
INNOVATION FOR CHANGE (I4C) RETREAT IN KAZAKSTAN
18-21 JUNE 2018
Innovation for Change (I4C) held its Inter-Regional Retreat in Almaty, Kazakstan this year. APRRN’s Programme Officer, Sussi Prapakranant spent 4 days together with some 90 network members from 48 countries, all convened for the exciting event.
I4C is a global network of people and organisations who want to connect, partner, learn together to defend and strengthen civic space while overcoming restrictions to basic freedoms of assembly, association and speech. It was established as a response to widespread and worsening trends affecting civil society, including increasing restrictions on civic space and attacks on civil society organisations.
Some of the work I4C members do together include advocacy, research, network building, education and training, fundraising, digital literacy and technology development. APRRN has been an I4C member since 2017.
During the retreat, I4C network members were actively engaged with the regional hub planning and in effect, strengthening the network. The programme included a wide plethora of skills-building workshops and incorporated activities to stimulate cross-regional sharing between the geographic hubs.
The first day focused on setting the stage – getting to know members old and new, and learning the regional journey of each hub. It featured an Innovation Lab, where 11 members who have been around I4C the longest shared stories of their work and how they first got involved. Participants then rotated between the speakers, learning and picking up some interesting insights about these new, creative approaches to see how they may be able to incorporate them into their own work, effectively building competencies around innovation processes.
Day 2: Skills-Building and Cross-Regional Sharing
Day 2 was a full-day of skills-sharing by the I4C members on topics of interest as identified by I4C members prior to the retreat. The sessions covered topics ranging from communication, campaigning to starting a social enterprise. Some practical financial-related ones include ‘Innovative Funding Models and Crowdfunding’ and ‘Sharing Economy Innovation Lab’, a concept that has been popularised by companies like Kickstarter and Wikipedia.
Day 3 of the retreat saw each of the regional I4C hub teams coming together and brainstorming their upcoming activities. The regional hubs were able to access Helper Hub team members as consultants in different areas of expertise such as network development, the website, communications, campaigning, and budgeting.
The final day wraps up with discussions on ‘Network and Community Development’, ‘Sustainability’ in moving forward. One interesting activity carried out was the identifying of gaps, with the connections made between regions – using yarn!
The I4C Inter-Regional Retreat 2018 was an interesting convention as it provides the space for members to meet and openly learn from one another to improve their work going forward. It’s encouraging for APRRN to see how they contribute to the strengthening of civic space in their respective regions.
PUBLIC SEMINAR ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY
18 JUNE 2018
APRRN, together with Fortify Rights, Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP), International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Center for Asylum Protection (CAP) jointly organised a public seminar commemorating refugees and their resilience. There were over 100 individuals present, from civil society actors to government officials and embassy representatives.
The seminar was addressed by the Thai National Human Rights Commissioner, with an overview of the situation for urban refugees and Rohingya people in Thailand. A short documentary was shown, followed by talks of hopes and challenges of Myanmar refugees living in temporary shelters along the Thailand-Myanmar border. The urgency of looking into durable solutions for the refugees was emphasised.
The highlight of the seminar was the session on the ‘Regulation on the Screening Mechanism for Undocumented Migrants and Refugees’. It was a joint-presentation between the Thai government and civil society organisations. The Strategic Royal Thai Police Office represented the government while the Coalition for Rights of Stateless Person (CRSP) represented the civil society, both of which reflected distinct perspectives. Based on the presentations, both key actors seemed to be leading in the same direction. CRSP has proposed for the government to consider setting up an appeal committee, complementary to the work of the screening committee.
Key points raised include the responsibilities of the screening mechanism committee, alternatives to detention, rights to a recognised refugee and rights to appeal. Although brief, it illustrated the positive development from the government regarding refugee issues in Thailand.
25-29 JUNE 2018
The UNHCR 2018 Annual Consultations with NGOs took place in June in Geneva, Switzerland. The overarching theme of this year’s consultations was “Putting People First”, a theme that highlighted the strong focus of UNHCR towards developing effective and collaborative partnerships, a central element of the New York Declaration. As in previous years, the 2018 consultations consisted of workshops, panels and “food for thought” sessions. The social media summaries for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 provide a useful snapshot of some of the discussions that occurred.
In addition to the usual sessions for the various regional bureaus, the agenda also featured thematic sessions on the following issues: partnerships, measuring the impact of the CRRF, Statelessness and the CRRF, working for and with local refugee leadership, national systems strengthening, self-reliance and economic inclusion, addressing protracted internal displacement, climate change and faith-sensitivity in humanitarian response. The agenda also featured a number of side events related to the main theme.
The APRRN Secretariat and many of its members have been attending the consultations since 2009. 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 70 APRRN members were present and actively involved as participants, moderators, note takers and panelists. APRRN’s Women and Girls at Risk Working Group was represented by one youth currently in a refugee situation in Thailand. Our Youth Working Group was also represented by a refugee youth leader currently based in Australia. Other refugee delegates from the region came from Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
In addition to attending the Consultations, APRRN Secretariat staff and members also used the opportunity to meet with the UNHCR Asia Bureau and Volker Türk, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection as well as permanent missions of various countries including Malaysia, United States and Indonesia. APRRN was also present at several other side meetings such as the UNHCR Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Retreat, Annual Roundtable on Strategic Litigation as well as the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR).
APRRN AND THE NEGOTIATIONS OF THE GLOBAL COMPACTS
APRRN continues to be very active in its engagement with the processes of developing the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), with a focus on encouraging dialogue and commitments relating to complementarity between the Compacts and the pursuit of a ‘whole of society’ approach.
Through its GCM and GCR focal points, as well as other engaged members, APRRN has participated in four out of the six GCM intergovernmental negotiations in New York co-facilitated by the governments of Mexico and Switzerland, and three of the six GCR formal consultations with states led by UNHCR in Geneva. The final text of the GCM was released on 11th July and the advance version of the GCR on 20 July.
While non-binding, both texts are significant political achievements in our current global context, reflecting delicate balancing acts between the different positions of member states during the negotiation and consultation processes. The GCM is the first multilateral instrument on migration governance and international cooperation on migration, and for that reason alone, an extremely important historical milestone. And despite its limitations, it reflects a strong human rights based approach and is gender responsive and child sensitive.
The GCR has delivered less clarity than hoped for with respect to ensuring more equitable and predictable responsibility-sharing for refugee protection, yet sets out some important infrastructure, concepts and guidance, and is also gender responsive and child sensitive.
Member states in Asia Pacific were mainly supportive of the GCM text despite their different positions during the negotiations, and despite some reservations with respect to the GCR, also remained committed to its finalisation and for the most part engaged with the process.
Over recent months APRRN has partnered with the Act Alliance, engaging diverse stakeholders with regards to complementarity and hosting a series of roundtables with key member states in New York and Geneva focusing on complementarity between the Compacts. Now that the texts have been finalised, APRRN’s work is focusing on implementation, follow up and review of the Compacts and in linking the national, regional and global dimensions. APRRN will be attending the intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco in December 2018 where the GCM will be adopted. The GCR is also expected to be adopted in December 2018. We will continue engaging on implementation and follow up at national, regional and international levels following adoption of the Compacts.
We are very grateful to Open Society Foundations for enabling us to do this work and to all the partners that have worked with us on this.
ASIA REGIONAL CSO MEETING ON THE GLOBAL COMPACT FOR MIGRATION (GCM)
APRRN attended the Asia Regional Civil Society Consultation on the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at the end of August. Held in Bangkok, Thailand, the consultation brought together more than 40 representatives from regional migrant rights organisations, trade unions, women rights organisations, refugee rights organisations, and humanitarian organisations providing support and assistance for migrants and refugees. The aim of the consultation was to update and debrief civil society on the Global Compact efforts at the international level, with and to discuss how CSOs in Asia can continue their post-December engagement with the Compact and beyond.
The discussions in the Asia Civil Society Regional Consultation focused on six key themes i.e. the delineation between ‘regular and irregular’ migration, labour migration, refugees and migrants, the right to social services, gender, and return, readmission and reintegration. During the consultation, participants discussed the key principles, notable omissions, and strengths of these themes as contained within the final draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The consultation was attended by APRRN members Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, Sumitha Kishna Shaanti and Evan Jones.
PUBLIC SEMINAR ON NEXT GEN – FUTURE OF IMMIGRANT CHILDREN IN THAILAND
15 AUGUST 2018
Photo credit: Tattaya Kotcharat
APRRN, together with the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP), Fortify Rights and Save the Children co-organised a public seminar on ‘Next Gen – Future of Immigrant Children in Thailand’. There were more than 60 participants from embassy, government, CSOs, among others.
The purpose of this seminar was to discuss the principles and practices pertaining to child rights and child care management, as well as providing a policy update on the Thai government’s efforts in ending child detention. Ms. Ayehsa Rekhi, Chargé d’Affaires, Canadian Embassy gave the opening remarks, followed by a key note speech on the ‘Alternatives to Immigration Detention of Children and Guardians’ by an international human rights expert and Professor of Law at Chulalongkorn University.
In the panel discussion, a representative from the Royal Thai Police mentioned the process of establishing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) amongst authorities in order to facilitate an end to child detention in immigration detention centers. A few civil society actors also were given the space to provide insight into the current situation. The representative from Center for Asylum Protection shared the experiences of detained children, while Save the Children gave a comprehensive overview about the best interest of the child. The Department of Children and Youths, on the other hand, shared about government shelter and its management. Last but not least, CRSP shared about alternative pathways whereby CSO, NGO and international NGO could possibly collaborate together in screening vulnerability of all detained 42 children, providing temporary shelter during the screening process, finding long term solutions, and case management. The event concluded with a speech from the National Human Rights Commissioner.
APRRN IN THE MEDIA
• ‘Arrival of Yemeni refugees on holiday isle has revived South Korea’s ‘pure blood’ prejudices’ – Hong Kong Free Press
• ‘UNHCR urged to suspend policy on Chin refugees’ – The Star Newspaper
• ‘Untangling Malaysia’s refugee policies’ – The Malaysian Insight
• ‘On Jeju Island, South Korea Has a Yemeni Refugee Problem’ – Albawaba
• ‘Thailand: Ensure Refugee Rights and Protections’
• ‘Arbitrary arrests make life in Bangkok hell for African migrants’ – Prachathai