East Asia and the Pacific

Operational information on the East Asia and the Pacific subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:

| Australia | China (including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions) | Japan | New Zealand | Pacific Island States | Papua New Guinea | Republic of Korea | 

Subregion: East Asia and the Pacific


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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion East Asia and the Pacific

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2017 {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"budget":[16.525354207,15.34539986,13.85213814,12.377742098,12.19028488,12.83085178],"expenditure":[13.07280675,11.15261125,10.32652066,9.14630248,8.30675425,9.5839666]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[16.141246217,14.93738811,13.55410589,11.951996448,11.7310978,12.3954976],"p2":[0.38410799,0.40801175,0.29803225,0.42574565,0.45918708,0.43535418],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[12.80539421,10.8423443,10.04318131,8.86550122,8.05275391,9.19680051],"p2":[0.26741254,0.31026695,0.28333935,0.28080126,0.25400034,0.38716609],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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People of Concern - 2017

[["Refugees",382633],["Refugee-like situation",4581],["Asylum-seekers",90026],["Stateless",851],["Others of concern",5]]
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Response in 2017

In 2017, a total of 12,200 protection visa applications were lodged in Australia; the majority of applicants originated from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. No asylum-seekers arrived to Australia by sea due to interceptions and push-backs.  As of 31 December 2017, there were some 2,100 people of concern on Manus Island and Nauru. New Zealand received some 350 new asylum applications during 2017, nearly double that of 2016. Excluding people under transfer arrangements between Australia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, the number of people of concern in the Pacific Island countries was 25 people which repeats the nearly 25 per cent decrease from 2016.
The situation of the 2,100 refugees and asylum-seekers whom Australia transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, starting in 2013, remained precarious. Through regular monitoring missions, UNHCR documented the significant and continuing deterioration in the well-being of the men, women and children subjected to off-shore processing.
UNHCR also supported implementation of the Bilateral Relocation Agreement between Australia and the United States of America, a one-time opportunity to achieve solutions for refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. UNHCR’s engagement focused on achieving the best outcome for refugees, namely voluntary relocation to the United States.
Pacific Island Countries with existing refugee and statelessness related legislation were engaged in initiatives to further develop response and protection. Several states were supported in activities related to development of national policy or legislation. Other countries, have been engaged in policy and thematic discussions in capacity building activities and through regional fora, primarily with the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (PIDC) and the UNHCR Pacific Protection Learning Programme (PLP).
China is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, but is yet to enact formal legislative or administrative provisions governing asylum. In the absence of a national legal framework, UNHCR conducts refugee status determination (RSD) and assists the government by seeking durable solutions for refugees. In 2017, UNHCR focused its efforts on advocating for a legislative framework on asylum and statelessness and undertook capacity building activities with relevant government counterparts.
In Japan, the number of asylum-seekers continued to rise in 2017, reaching over 19,000, an increase of 80 per cent as compared to the previous year. This has placed significant stress on the existing RSD system. With the 20 refugees recognized in 2017, the total number of recognized refugees comes to approximately 700 since the asylum regime was introduced in 1982. In 2017, 45 individuals were granted special permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, which brings the total figure of individuals with humanitarian status to 2,500.
Japan received 29 Myanmar refugees from Malaysia as part of the formal resettlement programme in 2017. Through JICA’s scholarship programme, Japanese Initiative for the future of Syrian Refugees (JISR), the first cohort of 32 Syrian refugees (19 students, 5 spouses, and 8 children) arrived in Japan from Jordan and Lebanon in August 2017 to start their studies. UNHCR provided policy and technical support to JICA, including a session during the initial orientation programme for refugees upon their arrival in Japan. 
In 2017, UNHCR maintained a constructive dialogue with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) through regular and high-level bilateral meetings. The partnership in the area of capacity building was further enhanced with a number of new initiatives, including the launch of Professional Day and study sessions for the officials involved in the refugee status determination (RSD), the first training at the Nagoya Immigration Bureau, and a thematic session on the notion of Internal Flight Alternatives. UNHCR also provided on-the-job training for the MoJ officials on County of Origin Information. UNHCR’s active participation in the Monitoring Committee’s discussion led to publication of its first report, with significant inputs from UNHCR, in order to enhance the quality of RSD. The first training session for judges initiated a discussion with the Supreme Court for further cooperation in capacity building activities.
Enhancing partnership with various stakeholders remained a priority for UNHCR, including the government authorities, parliamentarians, academics, other UN agencies and NGOs, community organisations, student groups, and the private sector. The office continued to foster relationships with its main private sector partner, Japan for UNHCR (J4U), in view of ensuring broader support for UNHCR throughout the country.

Operational Enviroment and Strategy

Mixed flows of urban asylum-seekers and migrants from South-West Asia, the Middle East, and Africa continue to feature on the protection agenda in this subregion. UNHCR is pursuing dialogue with all relevant actors to foster regional cooperation, prevent refoulement, seek alternatives to detention of asylum-seekers; and discourage the development of restrictive asylum policies. 

In Australia, asylum policies have created challenges in maintaining the protection space, in particular the transfer of asylum-seekers arriving by sea to offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, with no prospect of a viable durable solution, and the interception of asylum-seeker vessels. However, Australia has maintained the generosity it has traditionally displayed, providing resettlement places and high levels of financial support to UNHCR in response to multiple large-scale humanitarian crises around the world.
In New Zealand, the overall asylum and refugee framework remains positive, with a modest but well-managed resettlement programme and consistent financial support to UNHCR. Legislation to deter arrivals by sea came into force in 2013, although no push-backs have occurred to date.

Pacific States are strengthening collaboration in addressing refugee protection in mixed migration movements through policy development and capacity building. UNHCR continues to support assessments for asylum-seekers and monitor the processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.  Climate change and natural disasters causing displacement continue to be of concern to Pacific Island Countries.
In Papua New Guinea, there have been positive steps toward the integration of West Papuan refugees, includingthe waiver of citizenship fees and the partial lifting of reservations to the 1951 Convention. A clearer legal basis for refugee protection is also in place. 

China is becoming a transit and destination country for mixed movements as a result of its geographical and economic importance. The operational environment in China, including the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs), continues to be varied. In 2016, UNHCR will continue to provide support to the authorities to implement national refugee legislation and to enhance protection for all people of concern. 

In Japan, the number of asylum applications has reached over 7,500 in 2015, the highest record since 1982. UNHCR’s advocacy focuses on establishing a comprehensive asylum system. The formal resettlement programme started in 2015, following the five-year pilot project. A total of 19 refugees of Myanmar arrived in Japan from Malaysia in 2015, and 18 refugees will be admitted in 2016.In May 2016, the Government of Japan announced admission of 150 Syrian students (from Jordan or Lebanon) in the course of five years, which will be implemented through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).  

In the Republic of Korea, UNHCR provides technical assistance and monitors the implementation of the Refugee Act of 2013, with specific attention to access and quality of RSD procedures and assessments, reception conditions and resettlement. Over 600 Syrians are granted humanitarian status. Through the pilot resettlement programme, 22 Myanmarese refugees were resettled to RoK in 2015, and a similar number is expected in 2016. 

In order to maintain public support for UNHCR and to address protection issues for people of concern, UNHCR’s presence in the subregion is aimed at nurturing strategic partnerships, including with the private sector and civil society.  Extensive awareness-raising, protection advocacy, community outreach programmes and fundraising will continue to be undertaken.

Response and Implementation

In Australia UNHCR will focus on preserving and strengthening asylum space; improving physical security and protection from refoulement; promoting and expanding durable solutions capacity; and promoting tolerance and a positive understanding of asylum-seekers and refugees.

UNHCR will continue to monitor policy and practice regarding detention at the processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to ensure people of concern are treated in line with international standards. To date, monitoring missions were used to develop recommendations and inform public and bilateral advocacy for improvements to physical conditions and legal frameworks for those affected by the policy.

In New Zealand, UNHCR will focus on preserving and strengthening asylum space and protection from refoulement; promoting and expanding durable solutions capacity.

UNHCR is playing an increasingly critical role in strengthening asylum throughout the Pacific Island States and initiatives on statelessness, working with several States on accession to the 1951 and 1954 Conventions, implementing legislation and procedures. In Papua New Guinea, UNHCR will continue to promote durable solutions for West Papuan refugees in particular through local integration. 

UNHCR will continue to support Pacific Island states to provide all refugees and stateless persons access to protection, legal status and local settlement opportunities.

In mainland China, UNHCR will strengthen its engagement with the Government with greater advocacy and provision of technical support in promoting protection for refugees and asylum seekers. On the basis of the 2013 Exit-Entry Administration Law, UNHCR will continue to advocate for the Government to assume full responsibility for registration, RSD and durable solutions, in line with international standards. In Hong Kong SAR, China, UNHCR will closely monitor the implementation of the 2014 Unified Screening Mechanism and extend necessary support. In Macao SAR, China, UNHCR will continue to engage both the authorities and local actors to ensure the implementation of the 1951 Convention. 

In Japan, UNHCR will aim at enhancing the prospects for the integration of refugees through support for measures to improve the asylum system; develop fair and efficient RSD procedures; and establish adequate reception conditions. The Office will also continue to support the resettlement programme and advocate for Japan’s accession to the Statelessness Conventions. UNHCR will also strengthen partnership with development actors, notably JICA. 

In the Republic of Korea, the Office will advocate for improvements to the asylum system and treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, and enhance engagement with the Government, the National Human Rights Commission, NGOs and civil society. UNHCR provides technical assistance to the Government in the implementation of the Refugee Act, and also focuses on strengthening self-reliance for people of concern, in particular encouraging their access to livelihoods, in cooperation with partners. The Office will also support the Government’s efforts to establish a resettlement programme.

2017 Budget and Expenditure in East Asia and the Pacific | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Australia Regional Office Budget
China Budget
Japan Budget
Republic of Korea Budget
Regional activities Budget
Total Budget

2017 Voluntary Contributions to East Asia and the Pacific | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
East Asia and the Pacific overall
United States of America 09,145,000 9,145,000
East Asia and the Pacific overall subtotal 09,145,000 9,145,000
Australia Regional Office
Australia 385,4700 385,470
Australia Regional Office subtotal 385,4700 385,470
China 017,942 17,942
China subtotal 017,942 17,942
Private donors in Japan 25,0680 25,068
Japan subtotal 25,0680 25,068
Total 410,5389,162,942 9,573,480