South East Asia
Operational information on the South-East Asia subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:
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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South East Asia
People of Concern - 2017[["Refugees",1099895],["Refugee-like situation",51159],["Asylum-seekers",54042],["IDPs",665051],["Returned IDPs",319167],["Returned refugees",2],["Stateless",1045171],["Others of concern",80180]]
Response in 2017As of the end of 2017, South East Asia (SEA) subregion hosted some 3.25 million people of concern, representing an increase of 15.4 per cent when compared to figures from 2016. The increase is due to a spike in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Philippines as a result of the armed conflict in Marawi that began in May 2017, and to an adjustment to the baseline estimate of stateless persons in Myanmar. The Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh were already of concern to UNHCR, due to their statelessness status.
The situation in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar deteriorated dramatically following the 25 August 2017 attacks and subsequent security operations, which precipitated the departure of approximately 655,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. Against a background of decades of discrimination and effective statelessness, they have suffered severe violence, rape and psychological trauma. In addition to the protection and psycho-social problems, refugees found themselves in conditions of severe crowding and squalor. Bangladesh responded generously, keeping its borders open to the refugees. UNHCR focused on protection and reducing the risks and responding to the outbreaks of epidemics, landslides and flooding, as well as identifying and responding to particular vulnerabilities, such as a heightened risk of sexual and gender based violence, psychosocial distress, neglect, separation from caregivers, trafficking, and forced labour.
With funding received from donors, UNHCR also enhanced its refugee status determination (RSD) efforts in the subregion. In Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia the backlog was significantly reduced. With respect to stateless populations, excepting the Rohingya whose situation deteriorated further, there were positive developments. Efforts to support governments in reducing Statelessness continued. In Viet Nam, a project supporting nationality law reform saw state officials travel on mission to observe good practice in Germany and South Korea. At the regional level, UNHCR continued its partnership with ASEAN’s Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to promote the legal identity of women and children.
OperationsOperations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are presented in separate country chapters. For other UNHCR operations in the subregion, please see below.
Of the 13 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Office in Bangkok, seven do not have, or have only a minimal, UNHCR presence. In Viet Nam, UNHCR partnered with the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice to review the content and application of its current nationality law and explore the possibility of accession to the Statelessness Conventions. In Cambodia, UNHCR worked, inconclusively, to secure the resettlement abroad of a residual group of Montagnard asylum-seekers from Viet Nam. In Timor Leste, UNHCR provided training to immigration officials and provided support for the translation into English of the country’s new immigration and refugee legislation. For immigration officials from Mongolia, UNHCR recruited a new local staff and conducted RSD and prepared the resettlement applications for qualifying refugees as well as supporting the extension of residence permits for persons of concern in the country and giving detailed feedback on an update of the MoU proposed by the Government. With Singapore, UNHCR received interns pursuant to its arrangement with Singapore Management University to work on emergency preparedness, protection and statelessness issues. UNHCR undertook no major activities in Brunei or the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 2017.
Operational Environment and StrategyWhile only three countries in the subregion are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, most generally respect the principle of non-refoulement. UNHCR is endeavoring to build on this positive practice by formalizing temporary stay arrangements in countries in the region, including, as a first step, joint registration of refugees and asylum-seekers with relevant governments. This is coupled with efforts to decrease detention rates and improve access to education, health care and employment opportunities.
The longstanding maritime movement of refugees and migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar to Malaysia through Thailand has not resumed since thousands were stranded in the Andaman Sea in May and June 2015. This has been the result of increased interception, an improved understanding of the risks, the lack of legal status in destination countries, and the increased risks and costs of the journey.
With far-reaching social and political changes taking place in Myanmar, the possibility for solutions for refugees from this country is improving. Voluntary return is increasingly feasible for refugee populations in Malaysia, Thailand and other host countries. Long-standing resettlement patterns are changing, with UNHCR’s regional policy emphasizing individual (rather than group) referrals based on specific needs and vulnerability. Significant efforts are also being made to enhance refugee access to legal employment, both for refugee populations with an ongoing need for protection and to provide a “soft landing” for those who may soon have access to durable solutions.
UNHCR’s statistics indicate that over 40 per cent of the world’s stateless persons currently reside in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States, including two of the world’s three largest stateless populations. In 2016, Thailand endorsed UNHCR’s “#IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness” and adopted the policy goal of “zero statelessness”, making a series of changes to better integrate and increase acquisition of Thai nationality for stateless persons. Between 2012 and 2016, over 23,000 formerly stateless persons in Thailand acquired citizenship.
Significant progress is also being made on the identification and reduction of statelessness in Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, building on past successes. The Office will continue to encourage the development of a regional consensus on the need to address statelessness, in tandem with the development of the ASEAN Community 2015, including the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children and its Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The “2016 Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime” recognized that the prevention and reduction of statelessness is a means to address the root causes of displacement.
Birth registration to prevent statelessness will be promoted across the region, particularly with governments and development partners working towards the goals set out in the “Asian and Pacific civil registration and vital statistics decade 2015-2024” and the sustainable development goal (target 16.9) on providing legal identity for all by 2030. Links with academic and research institutions to improve baseline data and to identify possible solutions will continue to be strengthened and partnerships with civil society organizations committed to resolving statelessness in the region will be further developed.
Response and ImplementationOperations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are presented in separate country pages.
In the three 1951 Convention signatory countries—Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor Leste—UNHCR will continue to provide training and other support for government officials. Additionally, in the Philippines, UNHCR will continue to support the emergency transit mechanism for the temporary relocation of individuals being permanently resettled to other countries, and will maintain its presence and leadership of protection efforts for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mindanao.
UNHCR’s partnership with the Government of the Philippines in addressing statelessness is well-established. Priorities will include: supporting further progress in the Government’s work in cooperation with the Government of Indonesia to resolve the nationality status of persons of Indonesian descent residing in southern Mindanao; improving identification of potentially “at risk” populations; supporting the further strengthening of the civil registration and vital statistics system to help prevent statelessness and implementing the Government’s 2011 pledge to accede to the 1961 Convention.
In Bangladesh, the Government census of “undocumented Myanmar nationals” is likely to dramatically increase the official number of forcibly displaced people in the country. UNHCR’s role and the protection and solutions options for the population of concern will become clearer through the course of the year, with the ultimate objective being to provide meaningful protection and other assistance to those most in need of it.
In Indonesia, UNHCR’s responsibilities for registration and refugee status determination will be accompanied by efforts to enhance temporary stay options for certain categories of refugees, such as those with strong family ties to Indonesia. The Office will advocate further expansion of accommodation options for unaccompanied children.
In Mongolia, UNHCR will build on the visit of the Regional Representative in late 2016 to improve mandate protection and solution options for refugees in the country.
Efforts in Viet Nam will focus on the prevention and reduction of statelessness by supporting the work of the Ministry of Justice in the border areas with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. UNHCR will also review the nationality law and consider further improvements to close remaining gaps and bring the legislation in line with international standards.
2017 Budget and Expenditure in South East Asia | USD
|Thailand Regional Office||Budget|
2017 Voluntary Contributions to South East Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|South East Asia overall|
|PRIV DONORS UNITED ARAB EMIRATES||0||0||0||48,410||48,410|
|Private donors in Canada||0||0||0||598,309||598,309|
|Private donors in China||0||0||0||201,104||201,104|
|Private donors in Egypt||0||0||0||1,000,000||1,000,000|
|Private donors in France||0||0||0||27,995||27,995|
|Private donors in Ghana||0||0||0||2,968||2,968|
|Private donors in Ireland||0||0||0||303||303|
|Private donors in Italy||0||0||0||12,019||12,019|
|Private donors in Spain||0||0||0||3,286,952||3,286,952|
|Private donors in Sweden||0||0||0||377,759||377,759|
|Private donors in Switzerland||0||0||0||50,000||50,000|
|Private donors in Thailand||0||0||0||19,664||19,664|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||0||0||0||195,710||195,710|
|United States of America||0||0||0||13,955,000||13,955,000|
|South East Asia overall subtotal||2,740,325||0||0||20,476,194||23,216,518|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||3,427,491||0||0||0||3,427,491|
|OPEC Fund for International Development||400,000||0||0||0||400,000|
|PRIV DONORS UNITED ARAB EMIRATES||404,525||0||0||0||404,525|
|Private donors in Australia||2,891,639||0||0||0||2,891,639|
|Private donors in China||252,992||0||0||0||252,992|
|Private donors in Egypt||56,632||0||0||0||56,632|
|Private donors in India||2,556||0||0||0||2,556|
|Private donors in Italy||188,799||0||0||0||188,799|
|Private donors in Japan||1,274,607||0||0||0||1,274,607|
|Private donors in Oman||300,000||0||0||0||300,000|
|Private donors in Philippines||9,221||0||0||0||9,221|
|Private donors in Portugal||46,458||0||0||0||46,458|
|Private donors in Qatar||1,085,000||0||0||0||1,085,000|
|Private donors in Senegal||53,130||0||0||0||53,130|
|Private donors in Singapore||613,737||0||0||0||613,737|
|Private donors in Switzerland||2,567,670||0||0||0||2,567,670|
|Private donors in Thailand||82,852||0||0||0||82,852|
|Private donors in the Netherlands||1,708,693||0||0||0||1,708,693|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||45,215||0||0||0||45,215|
|Private donors in the United States of America||1,122,216||0||0||0||1,122,216|
|United Arab Emirates||946,800||0||0||0||946,800|
|United States of America||24,100,000||0||0||0||24,100,000|
|Private donors in Japan||91,253||0||0||0||91,253|
|Private donors in Japan||508,364||0||0||0||508,364|
|Private donors in Qatar||663,336||0||0||0||663,336|
|Private donors in Singapore||300,000||0||0||0||300,000|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||853,111||0||1,393,356||2,246,467|
|Private donors in Qatar||0||0||500,000||0||500,000|
|Private donors in Singapore||0||0||0||100,000||100,000|
|Private donors in the United States of America||0||0||0||202,400||202,400|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||0||450,000||0||450,000|
|Private donors in Japan||249,818||0||0||0||249,818|
|Private donors in Thailand||3,920,603||0||0||0||3,920,603|
|Thailand Regional Office|
|Thailand Regional Office subtotal||161,027||0||0||0||161,027|