Asia and the Pacific

22 November 2022
Makhin Nu, 45, sits in front of her makeshift shelter in Say Tha Mar Gyi, a camp that is home to 16,500 Rohingya internally displaced people in Rakhine state, Myanmar.
Makhin Nu, 45, sits in front of her makeshift shelter in Say Tha Mar Gyi, a camp that is home to 16,500 Rohingya internally displaced people in Rakhine state, Myanmar.   © UNHCR/Fabien Faivre

Executive summary

From emergencies requiring an immediate humanitarian response to contexts needing innovative longer-term and sustainable solutions, the Asia and the Pacific region presents a complex set of situations needing greater burden- and responsibility-sharing and sustained, predictable and flexible funding. As climate-induced disasters intensify and existing humanitarian situations reignite or remain unresolved, UNHCR will redouble its agile, adaptive and strategic efforts to protect, assist and pursue solutions for affected populations in the region in 2023.

Significant internal displacement is expected to continue. In support of the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on Internal Displacement, UNHCR will emphasize durable solutions and seek engagement by others. In Afghanistan, improved security since the end of large-scale conflict in 2021 has allowed UNHCR to expand its presence and 60,000 refugees and 680,000 IDPs could return in 2023. However, many challenges remain, particularly for women and girls, compounded by targeted acts of violence, economic collapse, acute food insecurity and natural disasters. In line with the Global Compact on Refugees and Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, UNHCR will take an inclusive and collaborative approach to leading and coordinating the inter-agency Refugee Response Plan, which aims to meet the needs of Afghans and host communities in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan and in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in 2023.

UNHCR will take a comprehensive approach to finding sustainable solutions for Rohingya refugees and advocate for sustained support to host countries until solutions are achieved. Progress towards the voluntary repatriation of refugees has stalled since the events of February 2021 in Myanmar. UNHCR will continue to request access to expand the implementation of quick impact projects in northern Rakhine state to create conditions conducive for sustainable return and reintegration. In 2023, UNHCR will focus on access to affected populations while investing more in protection, redoubling efforts to support resilience via the provision of core relief items for 145,000 households and cash assistance for 12,500 households in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. Until conditions allow returns to Myanmar, UNHCR will support the almost 1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char Island in Bangladesh. It will invest in essential services and promote refugees’ education, including through expansion of the Myanmar curriculum to 12,280 children at the pre-primary level, and support skills development and livelihoods by distributing production kits to 72,000 households.

UNHCR will redouble efforts to facilitate third-country resettlement for 10,500 Afghan and over 16,000 Rohingya refugees and will scale up support for complementary pathways in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan. It will also seek solutions for more than 90,000 Myanmar refugees in Thailand, for whom voluntary repatriation remains suspended.

UNHCR will work with the relevant national counterparts to promote access to territory, fair asylum procedures and protection-sensitive border controls across the region. UNHCR will bolster engagement with communities and partnerships with refugee-led organizations, particularly on preventing gender-based violence, with services for survivors or those at risk.

To tackle statelessness, UNHCR will advocate for States to accede to the statelessness conventions and address gaps in birth registration and national legal frameworks for citizenship.

Nearly 80% of the world’s climate-induced displacement is reportedly in Asia and the Pacific and, as climate shocks become more frequent and severe, UNHCR aims to better protect and strengthen the resilience of displaced people in climate-vulnerable countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. UNHCR will advance legal, policy and practical solutions for the protection of people displaced by the effects of climate change and natural disasters. It will contribute to inter-agency responses to such emergencies and make its own programming more climate-smart, aiming for sustainability and an environmentally sensitive footprint.

UNHCR will cultivate strategic partnerships with humanitarian, peace and development actors, UN agencies and NGOs, civil society and community-based organisations, as well as international financial institutions. It will leverage the convening power of the Almaty Process, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Bali Process and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to build regional support for the inclusion of displaced and stateless people in national systems, particularly in health and education. It will aim to secure ambitious commitments and realizable outcomes at the 2023 Global Refugee Forum.

Situations

Afghan Situation

2023 population planning figures 

  • Refugees and asylum-seekers in Afghanistan (from Pakistan): 42,400  

  • Registered Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers: 2.4 million, 41% women and 40% children* 

  • IDPs: 2.2 million**, 49% women and girls, 58% children  

  • Refugee and IDP returnees***: 740,000  

*Demographics based on 2021 annual statistical report. 
**Conflict-induced IDPs.
***A further 5 million Afghans of various status remain in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan. 

  

2023 situation overview  

The end of the large-scale conflict in Afghanistan in 2021 led to an improvement in the overall security situation and a marked reduction in civilian casualties, enabling humanitarian access to all provinces, including many areas which had been inaccessible for decades. At the same time, many challenges remain, particularly for women and girls, including widespread food insecurity, soaring inflation and high economic instability exacerbated by sanctions and loss of aid, limited livelihoods, and more frequent and severe climate shocks. UNHCR has recorded over 1 million IDPs who have already voluntarily returned since the end of the conflict and an estimated 60,000 refugee returnees and 680,000 IDP returnees are anticipated in 2023. UNHCR will continue to deliver on its scaled-up response, focusing on the provision of cash assistance, core relief items and shelter while continuing to support community- and area-based investments in Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARRs).  

While the situation inside Afghanistan remains fluid, the inter-agency Refugee Response Plan (RRP) will continue in 2023 in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan and in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. UNHCR will maintain an inclusive and collaborative approach to leading and coordinating the plan, which grew from 11 partners in 2021 to 40 in 2022. Building on the capacities and expertise of affected populations to act as first responders, the plan will respond to the needs of Afghans and host communities in line with the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. Efforts will also continue to strengthen essential facilities and services in PARRs to support durable solutions and create conducive conditions for the sustainable reintegration of returnees. The Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan have hosted Afghan refugees for over four decades and continue to generously host more than 2 million registered refugees from previous waves of displacement, and a further 5 million Afghans of varying statuses. UNHCR will support host governments in their efforts to include Afghans in the provision of national services such as health and education while supporting refugee-hosting communities. UNHCR will also look for ways in which social safety nets can improve Afghans’ resilience and advance durable solutions. 

Myanmar Situation

2023 population planning figures 

  • Refugees and asylum-seekers: 1.27 million 

  • IDPs: 1.35 million, 51% women and girls, 49% children* 

  • Refugees and IDP returnees: 80,000  

  • Stateless persons in Myanmar (Rohingya)**: 600,000 

*Demographics based on 2021 annual statistical report. 
**“Stateless persons in Myanmar (Rohingya)” figure includes IDPs who are also reported in the “Refugees and IDP returnees” category. 

  

2023 situation overview  

Violence against civilians and the intensified armed conflict following the events of February 2021 caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee into neighbouring countries and displaced over 982,000 people within Myanmar. Current displacement trends indicate that 1.35 million IDPs may be in urgent need of protection and humanitarian assistance in 2023. Humanitarian actors’ access to the newly displaced has been obtained only incrementally and remains unpredictable. The situation has stalled progress toward voluntary repatriation for refugees. UNHCR has called for comprehensive and regional approaches to solutions for close to 1.1 million refugees from Myanmar, the vast majority being Rohingya from Rakhine state. In response, third countries have committed to step up resettlement and have initiated new complementary pathways.  

In 2023, UNHCR’s focus inside Myanmar will be on responsive and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance, strengthening community-based protection and resilience, and supporting pathways to durable solutions for IDPs and stateless persons, including an estimated 600,000 stateless Rohingya. UNHCR will work with partners to support the creation of conditions conducive to return by promoting the restoration of the rights of Rohingya and implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Across the region, UNHCR will continue to advocate for expanded and predictable access to displaced populations within and from Myanmar and will engage with community-based organizations to support the delivery of assistance.  

In addition, UNHCR will continue to advocate for safeguarding the right to return for Rohingya refugees and work with the Government of Bangladesh and partners to sustain support to meet the needs of over 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh, including through the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis. UNHCR will broaden the resilience agenda in Bangladesh through the expansion of the Myanmar curriculum to 12,280 children at the pre-primary level, skills development and livelihoods activities via the distribution of production kits to 72,000 households. UNHCR will collaborate with partners to advocate for alternatives to detention and enhanced self-reliance and empowerment for Rohingya in Malaysia and India via community-based initiatives. Region-wide, UNHCR will redouble efforts to facilitate third-country solutions for Rohingya refugees and strengthen resettlement processing capacity while also advocating for scaled-up support for complementary pathways.