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:
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The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion East Asia and the Pacific
People of Concern - 2020[["Refugees",379411],["Refugee-like situation",72],["Asylum-seekers",126293],["IDPs",14000],["Stateless",893],["Others of concern",54]]
Response in 2020East Asia
China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are key strategic partners for UNHCR, which works in support of Governments with advocacy, refugee protection capacity, public awareness-raising and resource mobilization for the global refugee cause. UNHCR continues to facilitate implementation of commitments and statements made by entities in the sub-region in support of the Global Compact on Refugees, including towards burden-sharing, solutions for refugees and strengthening asylum systems and procedures to address protection gaps. The COVID-19 response has become a critical policy priority in the region and countries in the sub-region facilitated access for people of concern to testing and treatment services, though in some instances access to territory was affected due to border closures.
In China’s mainland, UNHCR registered 1,069 people of concern from 42 countries in 2020, providing them with support and assistance. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was host to 248 people of concern, of whom 182 were refugees and another 66 had their claims substantiated by the Government’s unified screening mechanism. A further 563 claims and around 1,700 appeals remained pending with the authorities. Macao Special Administrative Region did not grant refugee status in the past, and as a result two claims remained pending. China continued to host some 303,095 refugees who fled from Indo-China in the 1970s and were socially and economically integrated in the country. UNHCR continued to find durable solutions for refugees from all locations though there were delays linked to the pandemic.
Amid the pandemic, Japan’s national asylum procedure was generally kept open, though travel restrictions curtailed the number of asylum applications lodged in 2020 to 62% as compared to 2019 levels. Travel restrictions also made it impossible for refugees to travel to Japan for durable solutions, despite the readiness of Japan and its doubling of the quota for resettlement. Japan continued implementing education pathways for Syrian refugee students and their families. Some 700 individuals were identified as being stateless in 2020. UNHCR continued to support national stakeholders in further developing assistance and protection mechanisms for people of concern in Japan.
Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea received asylum-seekers from a range of countries in 2020 and processed their claims through its national asylum system. The country issued over 12,679 refugee status determination decisions and registered 6,684 new applications, a 57% decrease compared to 2019, directly related to the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020, there were 20,094 cases pending a decision, against 25,370 cases at the end of 2019. The country maintained its resettlement programme, despite the pandemic-related challenges, and some 166 refugees were resettled to the Republic of Korea since its pilot program was initiated in 2015, of which 17 arrived in 2020.
Australia and New Zealand remained key partners for UNHCR. COVID-19 related border closures severely impacted resettlement to both Australia and New Zealand, nevertheless together the two states accommodated a five-fold increase in emergency referrals. In addition to its internationally important resettlement programme, Australia progressed work for future complementary pathways for refugees, while New Zealand also advanced policy design for its community sponsorship pilot to commence in 2021. Stakeholder consultations, joint public information and community outreach activities with key protection stakeholders formed part of UNHCR efforts to support coordinated action for better protection to persons of concern, including for those transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru. While limited in number, asylum-seekers in the Pacific presented a challenge for the limited capacity of these island states with an economically challenged environment compounded by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events.
In New Zealand, the anticipated expansion of the resettlement quota to 1,500 persons was not achieved due to the significant impact of COVID-19 on case processing and travel and entry restrictions despite the partial recovery of asylum and resettlement processing in the latter part of the year. Support for resettled refugees remained effective. In March 2020 the Government further announced increased opportunities for family reunification and a further pilot of the community organisation refugee sponsorship pilot.
Australia’s restrictive asylum policy and mandatory detention of those who do not have valid visas remained advocacy priorities. Over 690 people seeking Australia’s protection and failed asylum-seekers remained at the end of the year in immigration detention where the average stay of all persons surpassed 600 days, including several individuals who have been detained for over 13 years. Public health concerns suspended detention monitoring and related border restrictions saw only 3,687 persons arriving in Australia on refugee and related humanitarian visas. In the context of continued maritime arrivals to Australia, Australia maintained adherence to a policy of maritime interceptions and returns. UNHCR efforts to find solutions for the refugees remaining in offshore facilities resulted in small numbers being resettled and over 200 refugees applying for private sponsorship schemes.
Engagement with the Pacific states continued in support of gradual introduction of refugee and statelessness protection into laws, policies and activities. The number of spontaneous arrivals remained small as arrivals were limited by COVID-19-related border closures and restrictions imposed by all Pacific states. The negative impact of the lockdown on the socio-economic situation of the small number of refugees and asylum-seekers called for assistance to ensure access to basic necessities and services. Climate change and natural disasters continued to concern the Small Island Countries. Establishing effective collaboration to obtain reliable data on asylum-seekers and the extent of secondary and mixed movements in the Pacific remained a priority.
Papua New Guinea
The human rights situation and inter-tribal conflicts in Papua New Guinea remained of concern. Gender equality and violence against women represented a significant challenge together with the extent of domestic violence against women and children as a form of gender-based violence. Overall, the security situation which remains unpredictable negatively impacted persons of concern, further diminishing prospects of viable settlement for non-Melanesian refugees. Together with UN partners and authorities, UNHCR provided contingency capacity building for refugee influx preparedness purposes and initiated new partnerships with NGOs for strengthened SGBV response.
Working environment and response in 2020UNHCR’s office in Canberra has been officially reclassified a multi-country office through the process of regionalization and decentralization. The Office in Australia remains responsible for UNHCR’s engagement with Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Island States. In 2020, UNHCR will continue to provide policy advice and technical guidance in accordance with UNHCR’s mandate and supervisory responsibility. In addition, UNHCR will work to strengthen private sector partnerships in Australia and New Zealand and develop new strategic engagements as envisioned in the Global Compact on Refugees. UNHCR will continue to advocate and work with the government of Australia to secure solutions for all refugees who were transferred offshore to Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In the Pacific, UNHCR will take additional steps to work with the states, UN partners, and NGOs to reduce the risks facing people who may be displaced due to events related to climate change.
The arrival of almost 500 Yemeni asylum-seekers on Jeju island, Republic of Korea in 2018 notably impacted the environment in which UNHCR operates. Refugees and the countries and conflicts from which they flee now receive considerably more attention and interest from all segments of the Korean society. This new landscape brings opportunities to nurture a broader understanding of refugee matters and garner additional public support, but also risks of more restrictive policies domestically. UNHCR is prepared to engage government counterparts on any revisions or changes to refugee policy and take advantage of the government’s interest in the Global Compact on Refugees, while seeking to strengthen linkages with the private sector. 2020 represents a year to solidify the foundation of UNHCR’s relationship with the Republic of Korea.
2020 Budget and Expenditure in East Asia and the Pacific | USD
|Australia Multi-Country Office||Budget|
|Republic of Korea||Budget|
2020 Voluntary Contributions to East Asia and the Pacific | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||All
|East Asia and the Pacific overall|
|United States of America||2,750,000||2,750,000|
|East Asia and the Pacific overall subtotal||2,750,000||2,750,000|
|China Regional Office|
|China Regional Office subtotal||3,322||3,322|