The following is a brief bringing you highlights of advocacy efforts by APRRN, partners, and what’s upcoming. We hope to provide you with regular updates on our network’s activities and developments in the landscapes of refugee protection in the Asia Pacific region. Should you like to contribute information, resources, or updates, kindly contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Over 65,000 Australians are urging the federal government to accept New Zealand’s offer of resettlement for refugees trapped in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Former sportsmen, Sonny Bill Williams and Craig Foster campaigned for the cause and handed the #GameOver petitioned the government with Amnesty International.
- Refugee Council of Australia‘s Director of Policy, Rebecca Eckard, spoke in an interview with the ABC NewsRadio about the hundreds of people seeking asylum placed under final departure visas, stripped of support and pushed into homelessness in the midst of COVID-19. The Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Carolina Gottardo, expressed concerns over the longer-term impacts on charities that are already overstretched and under-resourced.
- 20 October: The Centre for Peace and Justice of BRAC University, and Naripokkho jointly organised a “WOMEN | PEACE | POWER: A Youth Perspective” virtual panel with the UN Women. The panel brought together young women from diverse backgrounds in Bangladesh to discuss present challenges and their vision of a peaceful society.
- The Rohingya Students’ Union released a statement urging for formal education in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar given the recent violence, highlighting how education helps to alleviate poverty, prevents crime and violence, and empowers women, and deters sexual and gender-based violence against women.
- BRAC, Save the Children and several other entities lead a campaign called ‘Save Our Future‘, purposed to drive awareness on the global education crisis, showcasing evidence-based education solutions and innovations, and engaging the international community for urgent response. The campaign recently produced a white paper aimed to develop a common narrative around the impact of COVID-19 on education and key actions to be prioritised.
- The Centre for Peace and Justice of BRAC University and the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health launched their “Bridging Communities in Cox’s Bazar: Mitigating Risks and Promoting Gender, Governance and Localisation of Humanitarian Responses in COVID-19 Era” project, which will be carried out over 36 months.
- RUN HK organised a virtual ‘Resilience Run with Refugees’ joined by supporters in the country and the region purposed to celebrate the spirit of refugees, asylum seekers, and the wider Hong Kong community. All of the proceeds go towards their mission of rehabilitating refugees through sports, education, and beyond by enabling them to stay responsive to the needs during the pandemic: additional food, medical, housing, and psychological support.
- HSBC, one of the largest international banking institutions partnered with six NGOs, including Branches of Hope, Christian Action, Justice Centre Hong Kong and RUN HK to provide basic banking services for refugees and Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) claimants.
- ‘The Wait’, a five-part narrative podcast that tells the story of the refugee community in Indonesia is now available on The Guardian’s Full Story on Spotify. Mozghan Moeref from Refugees and Asylum seekers Information Centre co-hosted and interpreted the podcast.
- 20 October: ALTSEAN-Burma, Burma Campaign UK, Fortify Rights, Refugees International, and Progressive Voice were among the 35 organisations to write an open letter to the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, calling on him to acknowledge that Myanmar has committed genocide against the Rohingya ahead of the global donor conference for the Rohingya crisis.
- 23 October: Fortify Rights released a video about international accountability in the Rohingya language entitled, ‘What is International Accountability for Atrocity Crimes?’, on their YouTube channel.
- 28 October: Fortify Rights released a joint statement along with Myanmar-based civil society groups to call on the Myanmar government to uphold the right to vote, including for Rohingya. It also calls on the Myanmar Government and Union Election Commission (UEC) to reverse its policies of disenfranchisement and “take the necessary urgent measures” to protect and promote the right to vote in Myanmar.
- After months of border closure since COVID-19, the country is now receiving refugees for resettlement, especially those in dire need. APRRN members like KiwiClass continue to provide support services to newcomers such as beginner English courses and help in job searches.
- Human rights organisations continue to call on the Ministry of Justice for fairness and transparency in refugee screening processes. APRRN’s East Asia Working Group Chair, Il Lee stated that “the speedy refugee screening system largely served as a tool to reject refugee applications based on prejudice that applicants were abusing the refugee law for economic opportunities”. Processes are seen to be focused on border control rather than the protection of human rights.
- The Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) will be organising their 7th ‘DAN DAN RUN‘, a virtual charity run and walk event to help raise support for refugees in the country and awareness about people in need of protection.
- The government has imposed another partial lockdown in the capital following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. Organisations like Geutanyoe Foundation, the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) and Tenaganita continue to raise and channel support, and create income-generating opportunities to assist affected communities.
- 23 October: Fortify Rights released an educational video in the Rohingya language on international accountability entitled, ‘What is International Accountability for Atrocity Crimes?’
- 28 October: Fortify Rights released a joint statement along with Myanmar-based civil society groups to call on the Myanmar government to uphold the right to vote, including for the Rohingya. It also calls on the Myanmar Government and Union Election Commission (UEC) to reverse its policies of disenfranchisement and take the necessary urgent measures to protect and promote the right to vote in Myanmar.
- 29 Rohingya organisations globally expressed grave concerns on how the Myanmar military is inciting conflicts and violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine people. The organisations call for the implementation of all recommendations provided by the Independent International United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
- The Bangkok Urban Community Club is running English classes seeking to benefit refugee communities in Bangkok. The project is supported by Cisarua Learning.
- Asylum Access Thailand is partnering with a non-profit, Na Projects, in the 21st World Gourmet Festival for a cultural culinary showcase by refugee families from Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. All proceeds from the ‘Urban Refugee Dinner‘ event will be directed to refugee families.
Regional and Global
- 19 October: The International Detention Coalition and the Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative released a global report with the contributions of experiences, actions, and perspectives of actors showing the impact that COVID-19 has had on refugees, undocumented migrants, and stateless communities around the world.
- 19 October: APRRN’s Women, Gender, and Diversity Working Group organised a presentation, ‘Women in Leadership: A Review of Challenges, Issues, and Creative Solutions across APRRN’, based on the findings of a report in collaboration with the University of York. The research focused on how APRRN could provide more support for women in leadership positions in the network.
- 22 October: APRRN published a statement supporting the call for renewed commitment to sustained support for the humanitarian response and to comprehensive and sustainable solutions for Rohingya refugees and host communities across the region. The statement was released in conjunction with the virtual International Rohingya Donor Conference, “Sustaining Support for the Rohingya Response”, hosted by the US, UK, EU, and UNHCR. Lilianne Fan, Chair of the Rohingya Working Group, delivered a 3-minute intervention.
- 28 October: PILnet, along with APRRN, Justice Centre for Hong Kong, and Act for Peace joined other organisations to host the ‘Asia Pro Bono Legal Community Roundtable’. The roundtable is a result of the Global Refugee Forum pledge that’s intended for networking and dialogue between law firms and civil society in Asia. NGOs that work with and for refugees and others forcibly displaced were able to pitch concrete pro bono project ideas to law firms.
- 29 October: APRRN joined 10 other organisations in endorsing a joint response on the draft general comment on migrants’ rights to liberty and freedom from detention led by the International Women’s Right Action Watch Asia Pacific The response statement was submitted to the Committee on Migrant Workers and addresses the vilification of refugees seen through the rise in xenophobia, especially during COVID-19.
- The Asia Pacific Network of Refugees released a report of the outcomes from the consultations conducted with Rohingya refugees in the months of August and September. The consultations were done in collaboration with representatives of refugee-led organisations to document challenges, opportunities and ways forward in strengthening responses to the complexities facing Rohingya refugees in the Asia Pacific region.
Some of the highlights include:
• The consultation process includes the usage of several communication mediums and stages for meaningful participation, reflecting the challenges typically faced by Rohingya refugees, namely the lack of infrastructure and access to the internet.
• Some of the key challenges frequently mentioned by participants were quality of and access to education and training opportunities; lack of meaningful consultation involving communities in decision-making processes; lack of access to adequate healthcare; and the prevalence of SGBV in the forms of child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence.
• Actions to address some of these challenges include establishing a Rohingya think tank to amplify the voices of community; seeking support as first responders; working with allies for justice and access to durable solutions
On the radar
- APRRN is conducting a short course with the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies of Mahidol University, and the Centre for Applied Human Rights of the University of York. The ‘Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy’ is an annual capacity building activity to increase knowledge, develop critical human-rights understanding relevant to forced migration, and strengthen the capacity of advocates for refugee rights in the Asia Pacific region.
- 2-5 November: The Taiwan Association for Human Rights is organising a ‘Refugee Status Determination Training’ for a group of judges, lawyers, government officials and NGO participants. The four half-day sessions aim to enhance skills and knowledge and share information amongst participants, all of whom are engaged in assisting asylum applicants and others seeking international protection in Taiwan.
- 17 November: Gül İnanç, the Co-Director of the Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies (CAPRS), University of Auckland, will be hosting an opening panel at the upcoming ‘The Asia Summit‘ for Times Higher Education. This event is organised as part of CAPRS-UNHCR Global Refugee Forum Pledge proposed in December 2019.
- 12-16 November: Asylum Access, along with Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services, Namati, and UNHCR, is convening a virtual retreat entitled ‘Asylum / RSD Procedures Through Refugee Legal Empowerment’. The interactive sessions will be conducted by refugee legal empowerment professionals from around the world where key topics including COVID-19 and asylum proceedings, refugee leadership in asylum proceedings, and recent tools for refugee legal aid and empowerment practitioners will be highlighted.
- 17-20 November: The Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law of University of New South Wales will be organising a ‘Kaldor Centre Virtual Conference 2020‘ featuring global leading thinkers with diverse perspectives to explore what the post-pandemic world will look like for refugees and other forced migrants. APRRN members will be speaking on different panels for the conference.