Newsletter: December 2019 Issue

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Welcome to the final issue of APRRN’s Newsletter for 2019! Here is a glimpse of what APRRN has been working on for the past 3 months. If you have any inquiries or feedback, kindly contact Rachel Tan at







10-12 SEPTEMBER 2019
As the Chair of ASEAN for 2019, the Asean Civil Society Conference / Asean Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) was hosted in Bangkok, Thailand. Despite the initial challenges around approvals from the authorities, the ACSC/APF 2019 was successfully held in Thammasat Convention Center Rungsit.

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This year, the APF was centred around the theme of ‘Advancing Peoples’ Movements for Justice, Peace, Equality, Sustainability and Democracy in Southeast Asia’. Under this overarching theme, seven convergence spaces were organised through which participants were able to share their expertise and experiences in tackling similar or interrelated issues; and find ways to develop, collaborate, and advance national and regional campaigns.

The convergence spaces include:
1) Human Rights, Democracy, and Access to Justice
2) Trade Investment and Corporate Power
3) Peace & Security
4) Migration
5) Decent Work, Health & Social Protection
6) Ecological Sustainability
7) Innovation, Emerging Technology and Digital Security


APRRN, together with Asylum Access Thailand, Caritas Bangkok, the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP), Fortify Rights, and Host International co-organised a discussion focusing on refugees in ASEAN under the ‘Migration’ space.

The following key points were discussed:
• The refugee context in ASEAN is dynamic and multi-faceted, with many States in ASEAN concurrently being refugee-producing countries, transit countries, and host countries.

• Official figures of refugees in and from the ASEAN region are under reported, with many not being able to register with UNHCR or fall within other categories of vulnerable migrants.

• While a significant majority of refugees within ASEAN and neighbouring countries are Rohingya from Myanmar, the region hosts refugees from many different countries of origin and cultural groups, including but not limited to Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kareni and other ethnic groups from Myanmar; Pakistani, Vietnamese, Afghan, Yemeni, Syrian, Sri Lankan, Somali and many other African countries.


• Despite the fact that most states within ASEAN not being signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, all states are required to uphold the international customary law principles of non-refoulement – forbidding countries to return people to situations where they are likely to experience persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

• Many citizens of countries with ASEAN hold xenophobic views towards migrants and refugees, and efforts need to be made to address this among the general public. ASEAN States should undertake public awareness raising campaigns for the general public on refugees to combat rising xenophobia and discrimination across the region.

• From the perspective of Rohingya refugees representatives present in Bangkok, the solution to their situation is for ASEAN and the international community is to pressure the Myanmar government, for the military army to cease attacks and human rights abuses and restoring the rights to citizenship to the Rohingya to allow them to return to Myanmar safely.

• More efforts could be made in the ASEAN region to promote the rights and welfare of all migrants, as this would also be beneficial to refugees. Small positive changes and steps can be leveraged to create greater change in the future.

• There have been some positive signs within the ASEAN region with regard to the increased protection and welfare of refugees, including Thailand MOU to end child detention and commitments to a National Screening Mechanism, and Malaysia making political commitments to access to work rights for refugees, and to some extent, Indonesia’s presidential decree.

• There is a need for progressive mechanisms in order to enable ASEAN States to take stronger actions in the region to promote the protection of refugees and to defend human rights. This, in particular, is looking at revising the non-interference principal of ASEAN.


7-9 SEPTEMBER 2019

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APRRN co-organised a 3-day forum in Bangkok – a collaborative project by five APRRN Working Groups (Regional Protection, Women Gender and Diversity, Rohingya, Youth, and Refugee Leadership and Participation), partnering together with the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR). APNOR is a network of refugee-led organisations and individual advocates spanning the continent and serves as the Asian chapter of the Global Refugee Network (GRN).

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The first day of the event was organised and facilitated by APNOR, creating the space for substantive and meaningful participation of refugees. Participants exclusively included refugees and others with refugee or asylum seeker experience, allowing for a select group of donors, civil society members, and others number of to participate in a strict ‘observer’ capacity. Over twenty refugee leaders gathered in Bangkok and were joined remotely by more than 70 leaders from country hubs around the continent, including Afghanistan, India, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia. The APNOR forum engaged participants on four overarching themes: refugee rights; refugee participation; good practices; and building stronger networks. Connectivity issues, security concerns, and violence hampered the participation of some leaders from Kabul and Cox’s Bazar, reflecting the risks many refugees must take to self-advocate, and the barriers to meaningful and genuine participation of refugees.

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Over 80 participants, including APRRN and APNOR members, government officials, UN agency representatives, researchers, donors, ASEAN officials, and other civil society actors attended the second and third days of the forum. Additional participation was facilitated through virtual attendance and virtual presentation. The multi-actor forum, aiming towards engaging and affecting the Global Refugee Forum (GRF), provided for consideration of outcomes from the APNOR forum, assessment of regional trends, discussion of GRF pledges and sponsorships, showcasing of positive practice, rights-based protection strategies, guidance regarding the co-creation of enabling environments for the meaningful participation and leadership of refugees, migrants and other actors within a whole-of-society approach, practical engagement with work plans towards the GRF, and a number of related topics.

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7-9 SEPTEMBER 2019

From the months of September to December, the research team from the Forced Migration Research Network of University of New South Wales (UNSW) conducted series of consultations, multistakeholder training and planning meeetings as well as ‘training of trainers’ (ToT) workshops in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and the Thai-Burma-Myanmar border. The 3.5-year action research project, ‘Refugee Women and Girls: Key to the Global Compact on Refugees’ is led by Dr. Linda Bartolomei, Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Ms. Geraldine Doney and carried out in partnership with APRRN, refugee women, service providers and UNHCR from five different countries in the Asia Pacific purposed to facilitate, support and monitor the implementation of gender commitments made to refugee women and girls in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). These commitments include addressing gender inequality, meaningful inclusion of women and girls in decision making and leadership, as well as preventing and better responding to sexual and gender-based violence – a significant barrier to participation. Findings were shared by refugee women representatives from various community groups at the Global Refugee Forum.

Consultations were held at the Thai-Burma-Myanmar border from 18 to 23 August, collaborating with the academic partners from the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies of Mahidol University, Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree and Ratawit Ouaprachanon, supported by Rachel Tan from the APRRN Secretariat, the Karen’s Women Organisation and The Border Consortium. 38 women leaders from the nine border camps, 2 male leaders, UNHCR and NGOs were part of the consultation.

From the 1 to 5 September, the research team organised multi-stakeholder trainings along with planning meetings in Cox’s Bazar together with 50 NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies. Separate meetings were conducted with the refugee women and men from the Kutapalong and Teknaf camps. The team returned to Cox’s Bazar again in November with the support of academic partners from the Centre for Peace and Justice at BRAC University, APRRN and UNCHR to conduct four ToT workshops with approximately 180 participants including Rohingya women and men, local NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies. The participants of the workshops then carried out 16 consultations across the camps. Following the consultations, data analysis workshops with multi-stakeholder teams are to be carried out in January.

Useful Links

GCR Project Malaysia Report (October 2019)


24 OCTOBER 2019

The Parliamentary Briefing on Legal Framework for Refugees in Malaysia was jointly organised by APRRN and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), in collaboration with the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Malaysia. The Briefing was jointly led by the APRRN Rohingya Working Group and Southeast Asia Working Group.

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The Briefing was organised to provide an overview of the situation for refugees in Malaysia, provide examples of legal framework and policies for refugees in other countries in the region, and engage members of Parliament to work towards the development of a legal framework for refugee protection in Malaysia. The briefing was attended by at least 88 persons, including parliamentarians; parliamentary aides and ministry officials; representatives from UNHCR; representatives from local NGOs (including APRRN members) and refugee communities; and members of the press.

The Briefing was moderated by Lilianne Fan, Chair of APRRN Rohingya Working Group. Speakers of the Briefing included the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tan Sri Dato’ Mohamad Ariff bin Md Yusof; Former Minister for Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar; Syrian refugee, Omar Alkhammaash; Rohingya refugee, Hasnah binti Hussin; Former Foreign Minister of Thailand and Board Member of APHR, Kasit Piromya; and Protection Team Leader of the Migration Services Department, Turkish Red Crescent, Nazli Merve Erkan.

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Tan Sri Dato’ Mohamad Ariff and Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar highlighted Malaysia’s record of ad hoc approach to providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and underscored the importance and benefits of developing a national legal framework for refugees. They also called on Parliamentarians to engage further on the issue and influence the government to develop and implement a comprehensive legal framework for refugees. Kasit Piromya highlighted the need for both Thailand and Malaysia to develop national legal framework for refugees and to initiate an ASEAN guideline or master plan for refugee protection in the region.

The Parliamentarians were particularly moved when Omar and Hasnah spoke of their personal experiences as refugees living in Malaysia. In their speeches, they highlighted the importance of access to education, employment and legal status for refugees. The Parliamentarians also responded well to the presentation on the overview of the legal framework for refugees in Turkey and services provided for refugees by the Turkish Government, as it showcased how other states manage refugee populations.

The Briefing ended with a short discussion moderated by Parliamentarian Maria Chin Abdullah. Parliamentarians expressed their support for the development of a national legal framework for refugees.

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The event ended with an agreement amongst the Parliamentarians to form an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on refugees to study the issue further and to collaborate with civil society and refugee communities on activities towards the development of a legal framework for refugees. The summary report of the Briefing can be found here.

Since the Briefing, follow up meetings between parliamentarians, civil society and UNHCR have taken place and the APPG on refugees has been formalised. APRRN will continue to monitor the activities of the APPG and provide support where possible.


14-15 NOVEMBER 2019

Queer Displacements: Sexuality Migration and Exile is the first conference in Australia to address and discuss the issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) forced displacement in its complexity. The conference was attended by academics, non-government organisations (NGO), policy makers, government agencies, activists, asylum seekers and refugees.

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Credit: Queer Displacements

Queer Displacements championed the voices and the lived experience of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers, refugees, former refugees and otherwise forcibly displaced people. It has created a space for awareness raising, solidarity, building alliances and engaging the whole of society in ensuring justice, protection and solutions for LGBTIQ+ people in forced displacement.

Queer Displacements were organised by two queer refugee women, Tina Dixson and Renee Dixson, who are the founders of organisational member of APRRN, Queer Sisterhood Project. The conference was hosted by the ANU Humanities Research Centre that provided financial and administration support.

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Credit: Queer Displacements

The conference was supported by the ACT Government Office for LGBTIQ+ Affairs; the ANU Research School of Humanities; the ANU Gender Institute; UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra; AIDS Action Council and Canberra Inclusive Partnership; the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry; Asylum Seekers Centre; Settlement Services International; Miles of Love, Planet Ally and 25 individual donors, as well as Canberra 2019 SpringOut Festival.

One of the key outcomes of the conference was the Canberra Statement on the access to safety and justice for LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees produced. It is a affirming the acute protection needs of LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people and calling for a set of urgent reforms to ensure access to safety and justice for LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees. Sign on to the statement here to show your support. You can see current signatories here.

Useful Materials

Queer Displacements conference final report can be found here.
Queer Displacements conference programme here containing abstracts and presenters’ biographies.

The next Queer Displacements conferenced is planned for 2021. Sign up to the future updates here.

Read and sign on to the Canberra Statement affirming the acute protection needs of LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people and calling for a set of urgent reforms to ensure access to safety and justice for LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees.


25-29 NOVEMBER 2019

APRRN organised the 2019 Short Course on Refugee Rights and Advocacy in Bangkok, joined by 26 participants from 13 different countries in the Asia Pacific region. This year, the Short Course participants comprised of legal advocates, journalist, trained economists, Human Rights Commission, refugee representatives, researchers, and NGO workers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Iran. Participants came with a diverse range of experience and from different professional backgrounds, each bringing interesting reflections and perspectives to the table.

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The course was aimed at strengthening participants’ understanding of forced migration in Asia Pacific through a human rights lens, as well as to build capacity, practical knowledge and skills in advocating for the rights of refugees in this region. Contents of the Short Course were carefully curated to ensure that the curriculum presented were relevant for current contexts in the region and practical in its application. Participants found that the course provided a solid framework in terms of the ethical and critical considerations when doing refugee advocacy.

Resource persons invited as speakers for the course include individuals from the academics (Institute for Human Rights and Peace of Mahidol University, Colorado School of Public Health and Institute of Behavioral Science), Asylum Access, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNHCR Bureau for the Asia and the Pacific, Human Rights Watch, the media (Reuters), and a human rights laywer and avid advocate for refugee leadership and participation who worked closely with refugees in Indonesia. Rachel Tan from the APRRN Secretariat and Dr Michael Hayes from Mahidol University’s Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) were the main course facilitators.

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The course was delivered through a combination of interactive lectures, case studies of current ongoing issues and group work. Each participant brought an advocacy issue of interest prior to the Short Course, specific to their individual contexts, and those issues were utilised throughout the Short Course as examples and in the exercise of strategising advocacy plans.

The few key areas of advocacy identified include how to meaningfully include refugees in programmatic and policy-related decision-making processes; gender and diversity; seeing refugees as people and being conscious of the elements of privilege, power, discrimination with the focus on intersectionality when working together. Terminologies and language often used in organisations in relation to empowerment and disempowerment were also reconsidered.

Several collaborations and interactions amongst the participants were initiated and continued from the course. As APRRN believes very much in the power of networking and working in close collaboration to strategically tackle some of the urgent and increasingly complex refugee issues in the region, the Short Course also serves as a platform to develop effective strategies – building on the strengths of those working on different levels to heighten refugee protection and support.

APRRN also introduced a film screening of a documentary entitled ‘Bou’ (Bride) into the Short Course module this year, partnering with the filmmaker from Malaysia and Goethe Institute Thailand. APRRN also partnered with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and joined their Asia Pacific Regional NGO Partnerships Week to lead a panel discussion on ‘Engaging Displaced and Host Communities’.

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7-8 DECEMBER 2019

The Roundtable was jointly led by the Rohingya Working Group and Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group (LAAWG), and primarily facilitated by APRRN member Brian Barbour from Act for Peace. The closed-door Roundtable brought together 38 senior lawyers, legal practitioners, legal aid NGOs, academics, international lawyers, and UNHCR and OHCHR representatives to discuss and develop legal strategy for the protection of refugees in Bangladesh and India. The Roundtable examined the role of national courts and lawyers in the protection of refugees; the situation for Rohingyas in Myanmar; the situation and challenges in India and Bangladesh; the interaction between national and international laws and politics; alternative protection spaces; and engagement with the UN and UN infrastructure. Participants were guided through group discussions to assess levels of engagement of stakeholders in refugee protection; identify avenues for collaboration; and develop legal and advocacy strategies.

Towards the end of the Roundtable, there was consensus amongst participants that there was a clear need for increased national and cross border collaboration between lawyers and civil society working on refugee protection. Participants also expressed that APRRN is well placed to further support coordination and collaboration between stakeholders. APRRN will plan follow up activities in 2020 to support further collaboration between legal practitioners in India and Bangladesh.

Key papers presented at the Roundtable:

1. “The Role of National Courts and National Lawyers in Developing International Refugee Law” by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, Acting Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor of International Refugee Law of the University of Oxford. The paper can be found here .
2. “Engaging with the UN and UN Infrastructure in the pursuit of solutions” by Brian Gorlick, who has over 25 years’ experience working with UNHCR and the UN Secretariat and currently teaches in the masters programme on refugee protection and forced migration studies in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The paper can be found here .


16-19 DECEMBER 2019

Between 16 to 19 December 2019, more than 30 APRRN organisational and individual representatives attended the first Global Refugee Forum, held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. APRRN Secretary General, Themba Lewis, and Programme Associate, Rachel Tan, were pleased to represent the Secretariat and the Gender Audit Team respectively. Additional support from APRRN facilitated the participation of two refugee representatives, Hayat Akbari, Chair of the Youth Working Group, and Anyier Yuol, a member of the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW).

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The Forum gathered over 3,000 participants from government, civil society, humanitarian and development actors, international financial organisations, community representatives, private and corporate enterprises, and other backgrounds to pledge towards greater response to refugees and to explore innovative methods for ensuring protection and support for displaced people. Approximately 80 refugee representatives were present.

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More than 770 pledges were made across six main areas: protection, energy and infrastructure, shared responsibility, education, solutions, jobs and livelihood with meaningful refugee inclusion as a cross-cutting theme. Across the 4 day-event, APRRN members join others in pledging, presenting on panels, and co-hosting in different Spotlight and Speakers Corner sessions.

Some of the highlights include:
  • Dor Akech Achiek and Najeeba Wazefadost presenting in “Participation in Action” session of ‘Centering the Margins: A Day of Events Focused on Refugee and Host Country Leaders’
  • Announcement by Julia Mayerhofer in opening plenary of an extraordinary legal community engagement pledge, co-organised by Brian Barbour and others, joined by APRRN’s Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group, and including 125 000 hours of pro bono legal support
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  • Naiyana Thanawattho and Julia Mayerhofer in Spotlight Session (Protection Capacity) on “Promoting Partnerships Among Diverse Stakeholders in Supporting National Protection Capacity and the Provision of Legal Aid Services to Asylum Seekers and Refugees”
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  • Hayat Akbari in Spotlight Session (Jobs and Livelihoods) on “A Whole-of-Society Approach in Asia Pacific: Korea’s Multi-Stakeholder Partnership”
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  • Tina Dixson and Renee Dixson in Speakers’ Corner session (Protection Capacity) on “Refugee Women Organising: Identifying Protection Needs, Building Solidarity, Working Towards Solutions”
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  • Omar Alkhammash and Lilianne Fan in Speakers’ Corner session (Solutions) on “Refugees Engaging Parliamentarians in Malaysia”
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  • Najeeba Wazefadost in Spotlight Session (Protection Capacity) on “Engage, Participate, Advocate! Young People and Women Leading”, co-hosted by UNSW
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  • Meg de Ronde in Spotlight Session (Solutions) on “Refugee Sponsorship: Building Communities through Partnership”
  • Hafsar Tameesuddin, Najeeba Wazefadost in Spotlight Session (Protection Capacity) on “Refugee Women Do Talk About SGBV: We Need to Respond!”, co-hosted by UNSW
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  • Guled Mire in Spotlight Session (Solutions) on “Making the Vision of the Three-Year Strategy a Reality”
  • Melika Sheikh-Eldin and Noor Azizah in Spotlight Session (Protection Capacity) on “Not Just An Acronym: Age, Gender, Disability and Diversity – What Cross-Cutting Themes Mean in Practice”, co-hosted by UNSW
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  • Jessica Chapman and Abeera Abdullah of Project Stand Up in Speakers’ Corner session (Education) on “From Participation to Ownership: Refugee-led Action in Malaysia”
  • Apajok Biar at the Women Leaders Roundtable Luncheon
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  • Arash Bordbar and Tina Dixson joining Shaza Alrihawi, Andrea Ayala Melendez and Wenasa in delivering the refugee delegation statements in the closing plenary
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  • Delegates of APRRN were also involved in a number of the marketplace stalls: SSI and MYAN are working with International Rescue Committee and University of Virginia on a marketplace on “Building Welcoming and Inclusive Societies”
  • APRRN-APNOR Pledge to ‘Co-create enabling environments for refugees’ and affected others’ meaningful participation
  • .

    APRRN was glad to note particular commitments made, including Australia’s sign-on to APRRN’s joint pledge with APNOR to increase refugee leadership and participation at policy and decision-making level. The diversity of participants brought particularly interesting dynamics to the Forum, allowing for opportunities for refugee advocates and refugees themselves to engage non-traditional support structures alongside more familiar allies.


    16-19 DECEMBER 2019

    Article Adapted from Kaldor Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia

    With a goal that every refugee would have access to a lawyer, the global legal community committed this week to 125,000 pro bono hours for refugee legal aid, in an extraordinary collaborative pledge unveiled at the Global Refugee Forum.

    The joint pledge involves 50 civil society actors and 27 law firms, bar associations and corporations across the world. It is the culmination of a global mobilisation led by the Kaldor Centre’s Brian Barbour, together with Julia Mayerhofer, Co-Director of the Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet). In recognition of the potential impact of the pledge, Mayerhofer was invited to announce it during the Forum’s opening session, alongside the welcoming remarks of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi; the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres; and Heads of State and Ministers from Costa Rica, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Germany.

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    A core group collaborated to bring partners onto the pledge, including: Act for Peace, APRRN, Asylum Access, the Danish Refugee Council, the FJSS Group, the Kaldor Center, and Refugee Legal.

    The pledge emphasises partnering between lawyers, law firms, bar associations, NGOs and others locally, as well as across borders regionally and globally. Entitled ‘Mobilising the Global Legal Community to Protect and Find Solutions for Refugees and Others Forcibly Displaced’, the pledge launches a movement. An open invitation is issued to the legal community to add a contribution.

    Barbour and Mayerhofer said the role of the global legal community is critical to fostering the values of justice and equality before the law, and specifically to operationalising protection and finding solutions for refugees.

    ‘Legal aid contributes to government capacity, efficiency, fairness, adaptability, and integrity, as well as to the overall rule of law,’ Barbour said. ‘For refugees, basic humanitarian needs are critical, but those basic needs will continue without end until and unless a solution can be found to their predicament. That solution will always be found through the law.’

    The legal profession embraces a pro bono and legal aid ethic, as a fundamental part of what it means to be a lawyer. Through high-quality pro bono and legal aid work, lawyers provide access to justice for segments of society that may otherwise be unable to access it, achieving justice for those they assist, and for society more broadly. Pro bono legal aid in refugee cases serves to protect individuals and achieve solutions both for the person and for the State.

    There are currently more than 25.9 million refugees and more than 70.8 million displaced persons across the globe. Despite the magnitude of the needs, refugees suffer from a dearth of solutions and deteriorating political will. Refugee protection is increasingly being reconstructed as a political issue, with political actors taking advantage of the vulnerability of refugees, and inciting xenophobia and nationalism for the sake of electoral gains. Politicians presume that there will be few political consequences for doing so. But the consequences for refugees are severe when they are made increasingly vulnerable to religious, ethnic, or refugee status-based discrimination.

    As the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany asked during the opening plenary session, ‘Is there a global refugee crisis, or is global solidarity in crisis?’

    In this context, as the international community convened for the first ever Global Refugee Forum, the aim was to advance the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees by mobilising political will, broadening the base of support, and implementing arrangements that facilitate more equitable, sustained, and predictable responsibility-sharing.

    States and other stakeholders were invited to announce concrete pledges and contributions that will achieve tangible benefits for both refugees and host communities.

    The Kaldor Centre’s commitment includes research and support for policy-making, emerging scholars with lived experience and empowering refugees through access to educational opportunities.

    The legal community pledge was first revealed on 16 December in a pre-forum Spotlight session in Geneva, showcasing existing pro bono and legal empowerment projects and partnerships. Participants discussed how pro bono can be expanded so that more refugees can benefit from its potential impact. Presentations on collaboration and partnership were given by Mahamat Ibrahim Sallet, a refugee youth delegate and President of Living Together; Analia Cascone, Defensor General de la Nacion of the Government of Argentina; Cecilia Vejby Andersen, Danish Refugee Council; David Manne, Refugee Legal; Naiyana Thanawattho, Asylum Access Thailand; and Ms. Awmaima Amrayaf of DLA Piper.

    Among the other sessions was the launch of a Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network; the launch of a new Asylum Capacity Support Group Mechanism; a high-level event on the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS, by its acronym in Spanish); and on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees Support Platform.

    Brian Barbour and Julia Mayerhofer are both members of APRRN. Brian Barbour was the Chair of the APRRN Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group, and was part of the core group which founded the APRRN Rohingya Working Group. Julia Mayerhofer was the former Secretary General of APRRN.


    Contribution by Arash Bordbar, Chair of APRRN

    It was great to see after two years of working on the Global Compact on Refugees, the first ever Global Refugee Forum was brought to reality.

    Many APRRN members were able to attend, ran sessions and read statement which emphasised on importance and need in our region.

    Many states, INGOs, NGOs and refugee-led organisations present had pledged their support to refugees and host communities.

    APRRN also pledged for meaningful participation and enabling environment for refugees and it was great to see more than 80 refugees participate in this event, all engaging at different levels.

    Many states especially in the Asia Pacific region pledged their support for women and girls, education, protection and solution, which we hope to help monitor and see how APRRN can contribute into realising some of those.

    As a former refugee, I had the privilege of reading the closing statement on behalf of other refugees on the importance of their engagement in this process and beyond, for the implementation and evaluation at a regional, national and local level.

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    I was also able to manage UNHCR’s Instagram to engage a broader audience outside of the GRF and show how refugees themselves are a key stakeholder.

    It was also interesting to see many players from the private sectors including AirBNB, IKEA Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s taking part in this and pledge their support for refugee inclusion and livelihoods.

    We look forward to see how we can work more collaboratively with other stakeholders in our region in 2020.

    Contribution by Hayat Akbari, Chair of the Youth Working Group

    The Forum was officiated with a speech by the UNHCR High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi. The UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke about the important role states and other stakeholders play to improve the lives of refugees.

    “Today we must do all we can to enable that humanitarian spirit to prevail over those who today seem so determined to extinguish it. We cannot afford to abandon refugees to hopelessness, nor their hosts to bear the responsibility alone”

    Mr. Guterres emphasised a strong message for all stakeholders that “together, through this forum and implementation of a landmark Global Compact, we can chart a bold and practical path to help millions of people find protection and dignity, and to help all of us find a shared path towards a better future”.

    I had the privilege to speak at a Spotlight session on the theme of “A Whole-of-Society Approach in Asia Pacific: Korea’s Multi-Stakeholder Partnership in Jobs and Livelihoods” which was co-sponsored by the Republic of Korea, KOICA, Good Neighbours International and supported by APRRN, BRAC, KCOC and UNDP.

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    I spoke about how APRRN as a regional leader in refugee advocacy has built awareness and set agendas to develop an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach in the region, especially to bridge government actors with NGOs and refugee representatives. I was joined by different actors from Asia Pacific and Africa including H.E Lee Tae-ho, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.

    APRRN co-sponsors two themes in the GRF, namely Education and Protection. As a focal point for these two themes, I look forward to seeing how states and other stakeholders implement these pledges and the four objectives of the Global Compact which aims to: ease pressure on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country resettlement , and support conditions in refugees countries of origin for safe return.

    Contribution by Anyier Yuol, member of the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW), APRRN-Sponsored Representative to the GRF

    On the 16 to 18 of December, I had the privilege of attending the historic first-ever Global Refugee Forum organised by UNHCR. It was a privilege to represent APRRN at this important forum as Asia is a critical region and need lots of attention regarding refugee issues.

    During the forum, we had the opportunity to hear from States, NGOs, Private Sectors and individuals about their pledges to implementing the Global Compact on Refugee. This Global Refugee Forum was a critical step to making sure all the actors play their parts, to pledge and share responsibilities to better meet the needs of refugees across the globe.

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    While the Forum covered many significant issues, I had the opportunity to attend “Reframing Education in Emergencies” due to my interests in education. This was a spotlight session shared among key sectors such as the World Bank, Education Cannot Wait, refugee representatives and Uganda government. The session addressed the needs of education for refugees in emergencies and the importance of inclusion of refugees in all educational levels. It encourages all sectors to share responsibilities, to work collectively and to include refugees when addressing education issues.

    As strong advocates of women and girls, it was also important to see APRRN members such ANCORW, UNSW Forced Migration Network and other partners jointly pledge for the rights of women and girls. The partners pledged to continue the collaboration with all partners to ensure Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and protection against Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including prioritising the rights of women and girls in forced displacement.

    I am looking forward to see how most of these pledges will be implemented post the GRF.

    Contribution by Carmen Dhaly, Settlement Services International

    SSI was represented at the GRF by its international team Sonia Vignjevic and Carmen Ghaly, as well as by APNOR representatives Najeeba Wazefadost and Dor Achiek.

    SSI engaged in the lead up to the GRF as a co-sponsor in Solutions, and Jobs and Livelihoods. The GRF was an opportunity for SSI to continue its international engagement in exchanging good practices in resettlement and other solutions. SSI partnered with International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN) to share good practices in ‘building welcoming and inclusive societies’ at a marketplace stall. The stall drew in attention from the private sector, civil society organisations and governments in both resettlement and host country contexts.

    Newsletter - UNHCR-NGO Consultations

    SSI pledged in the areas of Solutions in partnership with the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) in which 68 civil society organisations joined to actively support the development of an inclusive community sponsorship programme for refugees in Australia.

    SSI also pledged to strengthen and build capacity within the theme of Jobs and Livelihoods. SSI pledges to share good practice and provide technical support to civil society and states looking to enhance refugee self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

    ‘We have pledged to support solutions for new and emerging resettlement countries, as well as hosting countries to build inclusive societies and enhance refugee self-reliance. Through the GRF we will continue to develop new partnerships to deliver on our pledges.’
    – Carmen Ghaly, SSI International Policy and Project Officer


    The Gender Audit was instigated to ensure that the commitments made to refugee women and girls in the Global Compact on Refugees were acknowledged in the processes of Pledging, Sponsorship, Co-sponsorship, and Co-conveners, and at the Global Refugee Forum itself. There was an emphasis on the importance of commitments to women and girls, ‘Age, Gender and Diversity’, and ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Violence’ across the key areas of education, jobs and livelihoods, self-reliance, energy and infrastructure, solutions and protection capacity. It has documented examples of good practice in these areas.

    The Gender Audit at the GRF was undertaken by a team of seven refugee women from the five UN regions, academic support staff Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway, and Dr Linda Bartolomei, from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and help from a team of volunteers. They were given the space to give a strong statement in the final plenary.

    Newsletter - UNHCR-NGO Consultations

    A total of 48 Spotlight sessions, 24 events in the Speakers Corner, 6 special events and two days of Plenary sessions and a Marketplace spanned across the three-day event. The team contributed their observations of the Forum and the ways in which women and girls, gender equality, SGBV and AGD were addressed by key stakeholders. The consolidated documentation of each session will inform the outcomes of the audit through the reports, co-authored by members of the Gender Audit team. UNSW also successfully co-hosted 3 Spotlight sessions in Geneva on ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Violence’, ‘Age Gender and Diversity Approach’ and ‘Youth and Refugee Womens Leadership’.

    Useful Links

    GRF Gender Audit First Preparatory Meeting (29 March 2019)
    GRF Gender Audit Second Preparatory Meeting (25 June 2019)
    GRF Gender Audit Third Preparatory Meeting (14 Nov 2019)
    UNHCR-NGO Consultations Gender Audit (3-5 July 2019)

    Contribution by Hafsar Tameesuddin, Individual Member from the Rohingya Community in New Zealand, member of the Gender Audit Team

    Being with the gender audit has given me the opportunity to learn from other women leaders from former refugees background like myself, and from two team leads from academic backgrounds as well. Through my contribution to this team by documenting the sessions at GRF in regards to age, gender and diversity and speaking as a panelist in some sessions has given me a chance to be a small part of the positive changes for womens’ & girls’ meaningful participations, leaderships, inclusion, prevention and respond to SGBV and child marriages. It is very encouraging to see how the work of the gender audit team has been recognised by UNHCR and partner orgsnisations and bringing the work of our team along for the policy-making process for women empowerment, leadership and prevention and respond to SGBV. Very much looking forward to do further work with the team others for this cause. We are the changes that we hope to see.

    Joint Statement by Gender Audit Team, Presented by Andrea Ayala Melendez

    The Gender audit team, includes two academics and 9 refugee women from diverse backgrounds, came about because issues relating to women and girls, age, gender and diversity, and sexual and gender-based violence were often not acknowledged, at international meetings or included in the meeting reports.

    We were determined that this would not happen in the Global Compact on Refugees. Drawing on our lived experience and expertise we brought the voices of refugee women and girls in our communities to the meetings. We made presentations, and produce reports, consistently highlighting the impacts of SGBV and the urgent need for the Age, Gender and Diversity approach to be A VISIBLE TOP PRIORITY. We’re proud to contribute to the strong commitments to all refugee women and girls included in the Global Compact on Refugees. This however was only the first step.

    The real success of our work will be measured in the number and quality of the pledges made at this Forum to meaningfully include women and girls in all of our diversities and to prioritise addressing the major barriers to gender equality which continue to marginalise and exclude refugee women and girls, most particularly sexual and gender-based violence.

    We were proud co-sponsors of the Spotlight sessions on SGBV and AGD and were inspired by the frank discussion and the strong commitments by all key stake-holders; as the Ambassador of

    Botswana stated, this needs to start by naming the problem- “Rape is a crime!! It must come out of the shadows.”

    Plan International stated, ‘‘We must look at child and forced marriage as SGBV. It is an institutionalisation of daily rape”.

    However, the USA noted, ‘Prioritising women and girls is still not part of the DNA of emergency
    responses’. And we add that DNA must include lesbian, trans and queer women who are also victims from this systematic violence against refugee women.

    This is what needs to change and that change needs to start here.
    The commitments to women and girls in the GCR need to move from the side lines into the DNA of all pledges made at this forum, to become a major indicator of the forum’s success and of what is monitored going forward.

    Unless this happens, the rights of refugee women and girls will continue to be condemned to oblivion through the myth of mainstreaming. We have raised our voices, now is the time not only hear us but to include us.


    “Not Just an Acronym! Age, Gender, Disability, and Diversity – What cross-cutting themes mean in practice”

    Article Adapted from International Disability Alliance

    Together with the Women’s Refugees Commission and PLAN International and a few other co-organisers, UNSW co-hosted the spotlight session “Not Just an Acronym! Age, Gender, Disability, and Diversity – What cross-cutting themes mean in practice” with the support of the European Union, Australia, Norway, Canada and Finland and in collaboration with the International Disability Alliance, UNHCR, Global Youth Advisory Council, Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES) Australia, Women’s Refugees Commission, OXFAM, HelpAge International, Global Refugees-led Network, Care international Canada.

    The importance of an Age, Gender, Disability and Diversity approach to refugee protection was addressed by a panel of six speakers who are refugee representatives representing different organisations and groups. The session was moderated by the Deputy Director-General of the International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission, Ms. Marjeta Jager.

  • Ms. Andrea Ayala, Refugee Representative, Human Rights Defender, Gender Audit Team
  • Ms. Azizah Noor, Refugee Representative, Gender Audit Team
  • Mr. John Vyabagabo, Refugee Representative, Tanzania (video recording)
  • Mr. Karim Albrm, Refugee Representative, Youth Ambassador at Plan International
  • Dr. Melika Sheik-Eldin, Refugee Representative, AMES Australia, Gender Audit Team
  • Ms. Nujeen Mustafa, Refugee Representative, UNHCR High Profile Supporter
  • Each of the panelists highlighted the intersectional nature of privilege and discrimination they experienced and how the same issues can impact differently on individuals; they also shared their examples and known good practices, which led to a very enriching discussion.

    Ms. Nujeen Mustafa, UNHCR High Profile Supporter, supported by the International Disability Alliance, highlighted how the lack of preparedness by humanitarian actors to provide support to persons with disabilities creates barriers in accessing even the most basic services and led that people with disabilities are excluded from education and opportunities to increase self-reliance. She also emphasized how this unpreparedness is the consequence of the lack of quality and disaggregated data: “Nobody knows how many persons with disabilities have arrived in a camp or a country. Lack of disaggregated data by age, gender and disability leads to the ‘invisibility’ of persons with disabilities in the assessment procedures: their needs are not identified, and thus they cannot be properly assisted” she stated.

    “We are not asking for a favor to do that; this is our rights first of all”.

    The discussion then continues with Noor Azizah, which explained the barriers to participation faced by stateless refugees, refugee women and girls and how they are affected by the sexual gender-based violence.

    The perspective of older refugee person has been shared thanks to the participation, through a pre-recorded video, of John Vyabagabo, which told his story and the barriers and stigma he faces as an older refugee. This presentation was then complemented by Melika Sheikh-Eldin, which shared her thoughts as an older refugee woman.

    Newsletter - UNHCR-NGO Consultations
    Credit: International Disability Alliance

    Karim Albrm, as Youth Ambassador shared his personal experience supporting refugee children and advocating for the protection and the rights of refugee children and youth on a local, national and international level and focused his presentation on the need for mental health and psycho-social support and services across the entire AGDD spectrum. In particular, he highlighted the barriers faced by each category and across the AGDD group due to their mental health situation.

    The panel then followed with Andrea Ayala, which shared the issues faced by the LGBTQI+ refugee community. Among them, she discussed the loss of the social capital of the LGBTQI+ community, lack of a peer group and barriers to participation, and resettlement.

    During the opening of the floor to all participants, some States, such as Australia, Finland, Norway and Canada, and other stakeholders presented their pledges and emphasized the importance of understanding the impact of intersecting characteristics on people’s displacement and acknowledged the AGDD approach as pivotal to ensure their commitment to protection of all refugees. The need for quality disaggregated data collection, as well as the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities during all stages of the humanitarian action, were also the topic of pledges and remarks raised from the floor. All the pledges made are available here.

    Overall, the session brought consensus among all participants on the need to raise awareness of a gender, age, disability, and diversity analysis when considering solutions and, highlighted the importance of coordinated approaches among all the actors in refugee responses.


    APRRN saw the departure of Programme Coordinator, Evan Jones after 6 years of his service to the network. Here is his message to our members:

    “I feel truly honored for having had the opportunity to work at APRRN and for being able to contribute to the network’s efforts in building a movement of dedicated refugee rights activists. In my own small way, I hope that I have been successful in instituting some positive changes across the region – no matter how minute – towards increasing protections for refugees and other persons in need of protection.

    The experiences, memories and friendships that I have developed during my time at APRRN will certainly last a lifetime. From delivering trainings in India and Nepal, to conducting outreach to Taiwan and Afghanistan, I have been incredibly fortunate to meet and work alongside some of the most committed and inspiring individuals I’ve ever met. Seeing the passion and unrelenting determination to improve the lives of some of the most marginalized people, has been both inspiring and humbling. Seeing this passion translated into opportunities for refugees to live their lives in dignity and safety, has made me appreciate my own privileges and given me the drive to continue this work for the years ahead.
    Upon first arriving at APRRN in 2013, I was filled with trepidation and excitement for what may lie ahead. Having walked away from a comfortable job in the civil service, I was anxious as to what may come next. Thankfully, with the support of the then Executive Director Anoop Sukumaran and Julia Mayerhofer, I was ‘hooked’. I had found my passion and was given every possible opportunity to mold this passion into a role that would eventually see me taking on a strategic leadership position within APRRN.

    In early 2019, I was fortunate to play a crucial role in the advocacy campaign to have Hakeem al-Araibi released from prison in Thailand. This global campaign had APRRN at its heart, with members across Australia, Thailand and the world grouping together to provide essential support, guidance and collaboration. Without this amazing collaboration between organisations and individuals, the efforts towards his release certainly would not have had the same impact. It was this cohesion and joint advocacy that really hit home the integral role that APRRN plays in the region.

    Again, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all APRRN members and staff for making my time at APRRN so enriching. I am certain that we will continue to work together in the future. I also hope that one day we will achieve our goal of making Asia a region where refugees feel welcomed, respected and supported to create a new life”

    APRRN warmly welcomes Janeen Sawatzky as the new Programme Coordinator who joined us in December. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Janeen has spent the past 5 years, working with community-based human rights organisations on the Thai-Myanmar border in research and advocacy roles. She joins the Secretariat with a Bachelors of Arts (International Development, Political Science) from the University of Toronto, Canada, and a Master of Science in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (Oxford University).

    “I feel truly honoured to be a part of APRRN and look forward to engaging with APRRN members.”

    Janeen can be contact at


    ‘Refugees in Asia face delays, pushbacks as coronavirus shuts borders’
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    ‘Special measures needed to curb Covid-19 in refugee and migrant communities’

    Non-refoulement at heart of refugee protection
    ‘A new era for refugee protection in Thailand?’


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