THEMES WE WORK ON
Together, we work to advance the rights and inclusion of refugees and other people in need of protection in the Asia Pacific region.
Refugees have always relied on three durable solutions: local integration, resettlement, and voluntary repatriation. They seek to provide them the opportunity to restore their lives and ability to live in dignity and peace. Durable solutions are an important part of the refugee regime because they help refugees gain access to either protection or rights. They must be viewed as protection instruments rather than burden-shifting or sharing mechanisms. There should be no distinction between what happens before and after refugee status determination (RSD) in terms of refugee protection. There should be no conflict between refugee protection and long-term solutions. They must be understood as mutually reinforcing: long-term solutions are essential for the protection of all rights that refugees are entitled to under refugee and human rights legislation, and protection is essential for long-term solutions.
There are no legal entitlements to durable solutions in International Refugee Law; they are not rights per se and remain at the discretion of states. This imposes challenges, as, although the international community needs to work with durable solutions as “answers” to refugee conditions, core aspects of them are still rather feeble.
Focus Areas and Work
The Durable Solution Working Group seeks to improve protection, assistance and durable solutions for refugees across the Asia Pacific. Our focus areas:
- Perceiving durable solutions as protection – An idea so vital that it has to be at the basis of the framework (foundation) but also an aim (i.e. a principle). Traditional refugee protection and durable solutions need to be revisited to comply with the current context.
- Respecting the human rights principle of non-discrimination – Different solutions can be applied to different scenarios, but any difference in treatment needs to be justified and always be based on the best interests of refugees. Non-discrimination needs to be present throughout refugeehood.
- Commitment to not establishing limitations on human rights – Integral protection is the aim, and the most comprehensive protection should always be the goal. Refugees should not suffer excessive or unjustified restrictions on their human rights because of their refugee condition.
- Balancing States’ interests and refugees’ needs – Benefiting States, local host communities and refugees seem to be the better way forward in securing long-term adequate solutions. In any case, the protection of refugees needs to be a priority.
- Involving refugees in seeking and implementing durable solutions – Refugees should have an active part in the decisions on the solutions for their cases, thus respecting not only autonomy and individuality, but also increasing the chances of successful solutions through empowerment. The best mechanisms to use to give a voice to refugees need to be sought on a case-by-case basis.
- Seeing durable solutions as part of a non-hierarchical toolbox – No a priori preferences among the existing durable solutions should guide action and options in each case. All possibilities need to be taken into consideration to find the most adequate durable solution in a particular situation.
- Choosing the best solution for each case – Taking into account particularities and peculiarities as much as possible and to address them in a principled way. This would entail, at the very least, the incorporation of a gender, age and diversity approach in all solution-seeking actions; and would allow for the inclusion of other perspectives on vulnerabilities and particular situations of refugees.
Some of our current efforts:
- Mapping/documentation of practices on examining existing durable solution practices in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR)
- Building an evidence base for durable solutions and advocating for change upon this premise
- Conduct, map, and research field-level case studies covering practices of conventional durable solution options
- Disseminate and leverage research and case studies for advocacy, consultations, and lobbying
Durable Solutions Working Group Chair
Durable Solutions Working Group Deputy Chair
Law is central to the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others forcibly displaced, and it is key in the search for solutions to their displacement. Yet, too often, refugees and other forcibly displaced communities – and those who serve them – lack the ability to access legal services to address their legal needs. This is the case in the Asia Pacific region, which hosts some of the largest displaced populations in the world, yet maintains the fewest protections available, and sparse frameworks for advancing policy.
Focus Areas and Work
Some of our efforts:
- Strengthen the capacity of lawyers, NGOs and refugee-led organisations in refugee protection and rights
- Ensure efficient and timely sharing of information relevant to access to protection and rights
- Promote development and implementation of fair and rights-based state-led protection systems
- Support development and implementation of advocacy strategies to address to priority issues
- Support RLOs to access free legal assistance to address operational and community needs
- Anti-terror legislation forum
In 2020, APRRN, with the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), co-hosted two consecutive forums on Anti-Terror Legislation in the Asia-Pacific Region and Its Implications on Civil Societies and Refugees, focusing on jurisprudence and legislations on anti-terrorism in Philippines, as well as other jurisdictions in the region including South Korea and Hong Kong.
- Pro Bono Pledge
At the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, a joint pledge was made to advance refugee legal aid worldwide. Since then, over 70 organisations have signed the pro bono pledge, with law firms pledging over 127,000 hours of pro bono assistance. The Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group and APRRN Secretariat - as well as several Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group members in their organisational capacity - are part of the core group to coordinate activities. Member organisations have formulated pro bono projects, pitched them to law firms, and matches have been made to provide pro bono support.
Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group Chair
Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group Deputy Chair
The Asia Pacific region hosts more than half the world's refugees and has the largest number of stateless persons globally. Due to a lack of a protective framework for refugees and stateless persons in many countries across the region, individuals are at risk of arbitrary detention, often in conditions that fall well short of international standards. At the same time, governments across the Asia Pacific increasingly use immigration detention as a means to deal with refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and irregular migrants. People remain detained for seeking protection, often in substandard conditions, overcrowded facilities, and without access to legal advice.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, APRRN saw systemic disregard for public health advice to release people from detention which resulted in outbreaks and subsequent harm in various detention facilities across the region. Across the region, there is a lack of data on the immigration detention context, which limits coordinated or effective response to prevent and end immigration detention in the region. Without this data, advocacy surrounding immigration detention reform cannot take place.
Recent positive developments, such as Thailand’s National Screening Mechanism and MoU to End Immigration Detention of Children, of which APRRN has been integral in passing, signals the potential to leverage this traction to expand the refugee protection space.
Focus Areas and Work
The Immigration Detention Working Group works to improve protection and increase access to justice for detainees, limit and end the use of immigration detention, and advocate for alternatives to detention (ATDs). The work of the Immigration Detention Working Group includes the development of national and regional action plans to achieve these goals, as well as the organisation of advocacy and capacity strengthening workshops around themes related to immigration detention and ATDs.
Our advocacy focus areas include:
- Promoting learning from existing good practices in the region (e.g. Hong Kong)
- Promote Alternatives to Detention with ASEAN structures
- Promote that, within the next five years, no children are detained/Engage with the "End Child Detention" Campaign of the International Detention Coalition
- Engage National Human Rights Commissions on detention monitoring
Some of our current efforts:
- Prevent and end immigration detention across the Asia Pacific region
- Gain a better understanding of how persons who are stateless or at risk of statelessness are affected by the use of immigration detention in the region
- Support APRRN members in advocacy to improve conditions of immigration detention, including access to detention facilities
- Identify and support refugee leadership to engage in advocacy around limiting and ending the use of immigration detention in the region
- Collaboration with other APRRN working groups (particularly South East Asia and Regional Protection) to engage ASEAN and other regional mechanisms on ending immigration detention of vulnerable groups with a focus on children. Advocacy in particular is directed to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) around the upcoming Regional Plan of Action (RPA) to operationalize the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration.
- APRRN is also working on advocacy to end immigration detention of Assam refugees in India, as well as delivering capacity building to prevent and end immigration detention across South Asia. This includes gaining a more in-depth understanding of the detention context and opportunities for advocacy to reform immigration detention systems in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and rolling out capacity building related to this.
Immigration Detention Working Group Chair
Immigration Detention Working Group Deputy Chair
Following on from the 2018 Global Summit of Refugees and Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees, one of the outcomes was the establishment of the Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group. The objective of this Working Group is to support fellow refugees, relevant global initiatives, and other stakeholders to advocate for the right to refugee self-representation, to promote positive changes to the regional and global refugee architecture (including within development and humanitarian systems), and to enhance refugee inclusion on local, national and international levels. The Working Group also seeks to advise and build the capacity of APRRN and its members to better engage with and support refugee-led advocacy in the Asia Pacific region, and to provide a link between APRRN and the emerging global refugee advocacy network.
Focus Areas and Work
The Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group seek to provide direction, advice and support to the APRRN Secretariat, Steering Committee and Working Groups on how to better engage refugee-led organisations, and networks and meaningfully include refugees in decision-making processes, advocacies and programming.
During the First Global Refugee Forum 2019, A joint pledge was put forward by APNOR and APRRN to co-create enabling environments for refugees and affected others as well as for meaningful participation. Through this Working Group, we are to support members in the implementation of pledges including through mutual capacity-strengthening, joint advocacy, and reporting against pledges. The Working Group also intends to develop recommendations for how pledge partners can more effectively co-create a sustainable enabling environment for the leadership and meaningful participation of refugees and other affected people in all decisions affecting their lives.
Some of our efforts:
- Advise and build the capacity of APRRN and its members to better engage with and support refugee-led advocacy in the Asia Pacific region, and to provide a link between APRRN and the emerging global refugee advocacy network
- THE FIRST ASIA PACIFIC SUMMIT OF REFUGEES: BIRTH OF THE APRRN REFUGEE LEADERSHIP AND PARTICIPATION WORKING GROUP
The first Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees, inspired by the Global Summit of Refugees which took place in June 2018 in Geneva, commenced in Bangkok on 22 October 2018. The summit represents an inaugural and historic moment of refugee self-representation in the region. 30 refugee leaders from 5 refugee hosting countries gathered for the Summit in Bangkok, while 78 others joined in virtually from sub-regional hubs in Malaysia, India, Iran, Australia and Indonesia. It was an event organised by refugees, with refugees themselves setting the agenda.
The second Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees, held from 9 to 11 November 2021 brought together refugees, refugee-led organisations & stakeholders to track the progress of refugee-led initiatives and launch APNOR's Agenda For Change.
Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group Chair
Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group Deputy Chair
The Asia Pacific region hosts some of the largest displaced populations in the world while maintaining some of the fewest protections available, and sparse frameworks for advancing policy. The region maintains the lowest number of signatory states to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the majority of national protection systems are ad hoc and precarious. The region thus exhibits some of the most severe violations of human rights for refugees and displaced persons.
While countries across the Asia Pacific have been actively engaged in dialogue and cooperation on cross-border movements, this has mostly focused on combating people smuggling and trafficking with limited attention to refugee protection. With momentum now building globally around the recent Global Compact for Refugees, it is a critical time to ensure that protection dialogues do in fact strengthen the advancement of refugee rights. Civil society has a key role to play - and we are strongest when we act together, as a network, with a strong vision and plan, and in association with other key actors.
APRRN’s Vision for Regional Protection encapsulates what APRRN believes could be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region within 10 to 20 years in relation to refugees and other people in need of protection. This has been informed by extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders, underlining the spirit of partnership, collaboration, accountability and transparency which guides our work.
Focus Areas and Work
The Regional Protection Working Group aims to increase ownership and realisation of the APRRN Vision for Regional Protection through the development and implementation of corresponding strategies which are clear, time-bound and based on accurate data and analysis.
Some of our efforts:
- Represent APRRN in high-level forums, advocating for the realisation of APRRN's Vision for Regional Protection.
- Map and analyse upcoming high-level and other strategic advocacy opportunities, key advocacy targets and existing members' access points and relevant expertise.
- Organising regional roundtables on strategic advocacy to refine APRRN's approach, analyse key opportunities and strengthen capacity.
The Working Group also undertakes research and peer mentoring with APRRN members on existing good protection practices with a view to supporting their consolidation, replication and scale-up, including via the development of tools and processes for mutual learning, accompanying evidence-based advocacy and donor engagement.
- High Level Officials Meeting 2021
- UNHCR-NGO Consultations 2022
- International Migration Review Forum 2022 to review progress against the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM)
Regional Protection Working Group Chair
Regional Protection Working Group Deputy Chair
In light of the worsening protection situation of Rohingya refugees living in the region, as well as the current situation in Myanmar, it is pertinent that APRRN continues its dedicated and focused advocacy towards the cause of the Rohingya, who have been marganilised for decades in Myanmar, stripped off of their citizenship, and been subjected to serious human rights violations including ethnic cleansing and genocide. APRRN plays a key role in the region in joint advocacy efforts by ensuring information sharing, intervening in specific cases, supporting capacity of organisations on the ground, advocating for the inclusion of Rohingya in decisions that affect them, and engaging with ASEAN and national governments in order to promote the rights of Rohingya refugees.
Focus Areas and Work
Rohingya Working Group (RWG) seeks to improve the situation of displaced Rohingya in the region by:
Strengthening protection and social inclusion for the Rohingya: Facilitate engagement at the local, national, regional, and international levels to strengthen the capacity of APRRN members and its partners to engage in advocacy to improve protection and social inclusion for the Rohingya in each of the relevant contexts
Strengthening Access to Justice: Engaging and mobilising the legal community to: better utilise existing legal frameworks, support individual cases or develop strategic litigation strategies, and negotiate/advocate to achieve solutions and individual relief for the Rohingya.
Strengthening coalitions and build capacity: Strengthen existing and emerging coalitions by increasing technical knowledge of refugee rights, solidarity among organisations, and capacity of these coalitions to support their individual coalition members and do so at every level: local, national, and regional.
Enhancing Rohingya refugee participation and leadership Facilitate Rohingya participation in decision-making fora at local, national, regional and international levels. Support and facilitate the capacity of Rohingya refugees to access protection and justice as well as uphold their fundamental human rights.
Specific advocacy focus areas:
- Monitoring human rights condition of Rohingya in exile.
- Enhancing Rohingya refugee rights in host countries.
- Prevention of unsafe, involuntary and undignified repatriation.
- Mobilising local actors to support the safe disembarkation of refugees taking arduous boat journeys across the Andaman sea.
- Influencing, where possible, ASEAN’s engagement with Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis to ensure inclusion of protection considerations.
- Advocating for sustainable durable solutions including resettlement and complementary pathways for Rohingya refugees.
Some of our efforts:
- Support and facilitate the capacity of Rohingya refugees to access assistance and protection as well as uphold their fundamental human rights including their rights as refugees and stateless persons.
- Increase participation of Rohingya refugees in advocacy initiatives and policy discussions that affect them, and normalize the inclusion of refugee participation in advocacy planning and strategy-making discussions.
- Support and facilitate the capacity of local civil society actors working with Rohingya refugees across the region to effectively assist, protect, and advocate for the rights of refugees in their communities, countries and regions.
- Identify strategic opportunities for, and engage in, advocacy to increase and institutionalise refugee protection and refugee rights frameworks across the region at sub-national, national, regional, and international levels.
It's Time to Share Responsibility: The Rohingya Crisis Five Years On
Released on 25 August 2022, the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network's Briefing Paper outlines how all stakeholders can own their share of responsibility towards putting an end to the systematic marginalisation of Rohingya women, men and children, five years after more than 742,000 were driven out of Myanmar by brutal attacks in 2017.
Co-written by APRRN’s Rohingya Working Group, the paper provides an in-depth analysis of countries of exile where Rohingya have sought refuge, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Thailand, and Indonesia. It highlights the glaring lack of basic human rights and legal protections, the continuous cycle of forced displacement, and the normalisation of Rohingya marginalisation across the region, to outline concrete steps toward improvement.
Virtual Workshops for NGOs: Refugee Protection in the Context of COVID-19 for local and international NGOs working with refugees at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
The Virtual Workshop featured international and national/local speakers and facilitators who are refugee law experts, refugee protection researchers and humanitarian practitioners.
Rohingya Working Group Chair
Rohingya Working Group Deputy Chair
The Asia Pacific region hosts some of the largest displaced populations in the world yet maintains the lowest number of signatory states to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The majority of national protection systems are ad hoc and precarious. Despite constituting at least half of the total number of refugees in the region, refugee women, LGBTQI+ persons and persons of diverse SOGIESC are significantly more marginalised than their male counterparts due to gender norms, domestic burdens and an absence of gender-responsive refugee protection policy.
Furthermore, within the refugee rights movement in Asia Pacific, women, LGBTQI+ persons and persons of diverse SOGIESC particularly those with lived refugee experience, are often excluded from leadership positions despite having the skills and capacity to effectively lead advocacy agendas and campaigns. The refugee rights advocacy agenda thus lacks representation from women, LGBTQI+ persons and persons of diverse SOGIESC. Leadership and representation of these groups is concurrently absent from high-level government meetings, consultations, strategy development or policy planning workshops which limits the inclusion of gender and diversity into policy and legislation.
In addition, gender equality, intersectionality and diversity is often omitted from organisational policies and practice. The outcome is, especially for refugee-led organisations, that gender, diversity and intersectional approaches are absent from advocacy planning, programmes or strategies; meaning the influence on decision-making, policy or legislative change lacks sufficient gender responsive components.
Focus Areas and Work
The Women, Gender and Diversity Working Group works to strengthen commitments to gender equality and rights advancement to improve lives of refugee and migrant women, LGBTQI+ persons and persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), and ensure their meaningful participation, leadership and active self-representation including strengthening leadership and participation at different fora.
Some of our efforts:
- Improve the inclusion of gender equality, intersectionality and diversity in the refugee rights advocacy agenda.
- To mainstream and create a greater understanding of gender, diversity and intersectional approaches through APRRN in its strategies and activities.
- To support the implementation of specific projects that advance gender, women's rights equality and diversity.
- Promote and actively enable refugee women and LGBTQI+ leadership and active participation at regional and global levels.
Forging Intersectional Feminist Futures Project
APRRN is currently participating in a consortium with the International Women’s Rights Actions Watch (IWRAW) and seven other networks on a joint project entitled the ‘Forging Intersectional Feminist Futures’ (FIFF). FIFF aims to strengthen intersectional movement-building in Asia, one that looks into developing transformative advocacy strategies that centre the voices and lived experiences of diverse groups of marginalised women and challenge multiple systems of oppression to achieve systemic gender equality.
Refugee Women and Girls: Key to the Global Compact Project
APRRN’s Women, Gender, and Diversity Working Group recently supported University of New South Wales (UNSW) in New Zealand in the 'Refugee Women and Girls: Key to the Global Compact', a multi-country collaborative action research project, to implement and monitor the commitments to women and girls in the Global Compact on Refugees. In particular, these commitments included ending SGBV, supporting gender equality and women's leadership, and improving protection for women and girls. The team conducted a series of roundtables, interviews, and training with refugee women focal points, NGOs, and UNHCR in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Thailand to ensure meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls.
Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming
APRRN is aiming to mainstream gender and diversity practices and develop policies promoting gender equality and power-sharing across the network.
Women, Gender, and Diversity Working Group Chair
Women, Gender, and Diversity Working Group Deputy Chair
There is an increasing focus on refugee youth’s participation in advocacy and governance which affects their lives. Many global forums are now actively involving refugee youth and youth-led organisations which are pioneering innovative responses to the issues young refugees face.
Despite this, refugee youth across the Asia Pacific region face compounded barriers to social integration, protection, assistance and resettlement. Access to education, particularly higher education is one of the key challenges refugee youth face, which leads to limited employability or access to opportunities. Furthermore, refugee youth lack safety due to inadequate documentation and inaccess to registration or other protection means. The majority of refugee youth lack participation in matters they value, which leads to a lack of youth voice in many advocacy processes. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these limitations and restrictions.
Focus Areas and Work
Our focus areas:
- Organise capacity building and youth development initiatives to support young people in undertaking youth-led advocacy activities
- Share information, foster collaboration and enhance collective advocacy on range of youth issues in the region
- Developing advocacy for refugee youth to access schools, colleges and Universities of the host countries.
- Developing advocacy and policy statements on dignified jobs for refugee youth.
- Establishing social cohesion and peaceful coexistence strategies between refugee and host communities’ youth e.g. through sports activities.
- Creating advocacy on transferring linguistic skills of the host countries to refugees’ youth.
- Developing strategies, policies, recommendations on psychosocial support to refugee youth through both the refugees as well as hosting communities peer support
Some of our efforts:
- To provide a mechanism for identification of issues of concern to refugee young people in the Asia Pacific region and provide strategic input to shape the direction and key priorities in addressing gaps in engaging with refugee youth across the Asia Pacific region.
- To promote refugee youth leadership and participation in the region.
Supporting Refugee Youth-Led Organisations in the Asia Pacific Region: Research Project with University of York
The APRRN Youth Working Group partnered with the University of York's Centre for Applied Human Rights on a project entitled 'Supporting Refugee Youth-Led Organisations in the Asia Pacific Region’ from November 2021 to April 2022. The project had three key aims, namely: to identify and map refugee youth organisations in the region and highlight their current projects; to identify the challenges faced in their work; and to identify the support needed and how APRRN could provide such support. In May 2022, the Youth Working Group held a presentation of project research findings and recommendations. 40 APRRN members attended this meeting.