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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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 South East Asia
People of Concern - 2020[["Refugees",1055653],["Refugee-like situation",47925],["Asylum-seekers",54727],["IDPs",520688],["Returned IDPs",153234],["Returned refugees",5],["Stateless",1058184],["Others of concern",601829]]
Response in 2020Amidst encouraging developments, the protection space in the South-East Asia region remained unpredictable due to varying levels of national legal and policy frameworks for refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons. Without an enabling environment, refugees and asylum-seekers continued to face challenges in accessing legal work, affordable health care, and education in many countries. The protracted nature of such conditions, coupled with the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic, affected the resilience of the refugee communities and their ability to meet basic needs. In this context, UNHCR’s work focused on increasing the protection space, supporting the governments in implementation of relevant policies, and expanding comprehensive solutions that include self-reliance, livelihoods and access to complementary pathways.
UNHCR is pursuing comprehensive approaches to solutions for the displaced and stateless of Myanmar, with efforts anchored in creating conditions conducive to the voluntary repatriation of refugees. In 2020, UNHCR and UNDP implemented community-based projects in Rakhine State, Myanmar, that expand all communities’ access to education, livelihoods and health care. UNHCR also continued advocating implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, particularly the lifting of discriminatory restrictions on freedom of movement and citizenship for the 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State. Outside of Myanmar, UNHCR led efforts to protect and assist the nearly one million Rohingya refugees hosted across the region. Humanitarian organizations worked closely with the Government of Bangladesh to successfully implement COVID-19 mitigation measures for the 866,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
As the situation in all host countries becomes protracted, however, a range of challenges have arisen, including security challenges in Bangladesh, the increased detention of refugees in Malaysia, and the refusal of several States to rescue and disembark a growing number of Rohingya who undertake life-threatening journeys by sea.
Efforts to promote and implement alternatives to detention led to a reduction of people of concern in detention countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, especially for refugee and asylum-seeking children. Expedited naturalization procedures and reduced administrative requirements for civil registration and naturalization, assisted stateless persons to acquire nationality, notably in Thailand and Malaysia. Assessments commenced in Thailand and Viet Nam to identify legal and administrative gaps that increase the risk of statelessness will also support UNHCR’s continued cooperation with regional institutions, such as the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to strengthen birth registration processes and civil documentation.
In the complex South-East Asian context where mixed population movements prevail and precedence is often given to national security considerations, UNHCR coordinated a multi-agency response in support of the authorities for the needs of 395 refugees, who were allowed to disembark in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia, in September 2020. UNHCR continued working with members of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime to strengthen coordinated search and rescue, equitable and predictable disembarkation options, and screening mechanisms to identify refugees, asylum-seekers and persons at heightened risk.
Operation with no individual operation summary
In the Philippines, UNHCR nationalized its office in line with its policy on engagement in situations of internal displacement in view of national actors gradually assuming protection leadership for those internally displaced in Mindanao. In coordination with the Government and partners, UNHCR implemented quick-impact projects and assisted the displaced with core relief items to promote self-reliance and improve protection conditions for 104,000 people. Important advances were also made in terms of statelessness with the establishment of a Special Committee on Naturalization to facilitate the proceedings for refugees and stateless persons, and the adoption of legislation on the welfare of foundlings.
Working environmentIn 2019, UNHCR’s response in South-East Asia continued to be dominated by the situation of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, to Bangladesh in 2017. UNHCR continued to address the humanitarian needs of refugees in Bangladesh while also working with UNDP to begin improving conditions for the communities that remain in Rakhine State. The needs of Rohingyas in Bangladesh and Myanmar are likely to remain immense in 2020. As a result, there is a risk that refugees will continue making dangerous crossings, either overland or by sea, to other countries in the sub-region.
Progress towards solutions for refugees from other parts of Myanmar continued in 2019, with several hundred voluntarily returning from Thailand. Long-standing resettlement patterns have changed, 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 education and legal employment.
In 2020, UNHCR will advocate for regional support for solutions to the Myanmar situation, seeking a range of solutions for refugees in Thailand and further improvements to conditions in Rakhine State. UNHCR will continue to engage regional mechanisms, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Bali Process, for such support and to prepare for any continued or onward movement of refugees to other countries in the region.
While only three countries in the sub-region are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, most countries respect the principle of non-refoulement. In 2020, UNHCR will continue 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.
Addressing statelessness, including through increasing civil registration and access to identity documentation, preventing statelessness and realizing the right to a nationality remain key strategic priorities for UNHCR in the region. At the end of 2018, States in South-East Asia hosted over 55% (2,130,853) of the total number of reported stateless persons (3,851,983) globally.
With UNHCR’s support, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam continue to take important steps to address statelessness. Cambodia is reforming civil registration laws, which will contribute to the identification and prevention of statelessness. The Philippines has a National Action Plan (NAP) to end statelessness by 2024 and is working towards accession to the 1961 Convention. In Thailand, some 100,000 people have received nationality since 2008. Thailand has also implemented progressive measures to protect basic rights of stateless persons, particularly access to public education, employment and some access to local health services. Viet Nam is revising its laws and policies on nationality and conducting research on accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.
UNHCR will continue to support the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) in developing a plan of activities with a view to increasing civil registration coverage and realizing the right to a nationality of women and children in ASEAN. UNHCR will also seek collaboration with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in these areas. UNHCR and the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process have supported the development of a Civil Registration Assessment Toolkit, which helps States assess and improve their national civil registration systems in order to incorporate and provide basic protection for hard-to-reach and marginalized population groups such as refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, persons of undetermined nationality and undocumented persons. The Toolkit is being piloted in Thailand and Pakistan.
Birth registration will be promoted across the region to prevent statelessness, 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 of providing legal identity for all by 2030. In 2020, UNHCR will support the organization of the Second Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific to ensure that populations of concern are included. In collaboration with the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness in Melbourne University and academic and research institutions, UNHCR will continue to enhance networks of statelessness scholars in the region, while also further developing partnerships with civil society organizations committed to resolving statelessness in the region.
Response in 2020UNHCR’s operations 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 asylum support for government officials in these countries as well as in Mongolia and Sri Lanka. Additionally, in the Philippines, UNHCR will continue to build the protection capacity of local actors for IDPs in Mindanao and support the emergency transit mechanism for the temporary relocation of individuals being permanently resettled to other countries.
In the Philippines, UNHCR will provide technical and material support to strengthen the government inter-agency initiative to identify, reduce and prevent statelessness through the NAP. The Government of the Philippines has pledged to enhance frameworks to ensure that stateless persons will have full access to rights as guaranteed by the 1954 Convention and, with UNHCR technical support, to work towards acceding to the 1961 Convention.
In Cambodia, UNHCR will support the Government in its efforts to implement a national asylum system, through capacity building. It will aim to facilitate an increase in refugees’ access to rights, as well as their inclusion in national systems. Additionally, prevention of statelessness will be supported through the capacity building and training of government officials involved in civil registration activities.
In Viet Nam, UNHCR will continue to invest in the continuing progress being made to address statelessness in terms of reductions, legislative reform, and possible accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions through the implementation of a project with the Ministry of Justice, as well as provision of technical support to develop a Strategic Plan and Analysis to address statelessness.
2020 Budget and Expenditure in South East Asia | USD
|Thailand Multi-Country Office||Budget|
2020 Voluntary Contributions to South East Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|South East Asia overall|
|United States of America||0||0||0||7,750,000||7,750,000|
|South East Asia overall subtotal||0||0||0||7,750,000||7,750,000|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||2,080,076||0||0||0||2,080,076|
|Education Cannot Wait||739,496||0||0||0||739,496|
|Private donors in Australia||94,460||0||0||0||94,460|
|Private donors in Belgium||94||0||0||0||94|
|Private donors in Canada||21,536||0||0||0||21,536|
|Private donors in China||450,906||0||0||0||450,906|
|Private donors in Denmark||3,447||0||0||117||3,564|
|Private donors in Egypt||26,665||0||0||0||26,665|
|Private donors in France||264,859||0||0||0||264,859|
|Private donors in India||1,761||0||0||0||1,761|
|Private donors in Italy||0||0||0||16,556||16,556|
|Private donors in Japan||42,073||0||0||0||42,073|
|Private donors in Kenya||1,077||0||0||0||1,077|
|Private donors in Kuwait||560,881||0||0||98,466||659,347|
|Private donors in Lebanon||360,814||0||0||0||360,814|
|Private donors in Mexico||20||0||0||0||20|
|Private donors in Oman||9,481||0||0||0||9,481|
|Private donors in Philippines||13,437||0||0||0||13,437|
|Private donors in Qatar||8,000,000||0||0||0||8,000,000|
|Private donors in Saudi Arabia||88,786||0||0||0||88,786|
|Private donors in Singapore||1,227,616||0||0||0||1,227,616|
|Private donors in South Africa||261||0||0||0||261|
|Private donors in Spain||1,045||0||0||0||1,045|
|Private donors in Sweden||8,680||0||0||0||8,680|
|Private donors in Switzerland||28,030||0||0||0||28,030|
|Private donors in Thailand||6,744||0||0||0||6,744|
|Private donors in the Netherlands||1,000,000||0||0||0||1,000,000|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||103,432||0||0||0||103,432|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||272,187||0||0||0||272,187|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||95,709||0||0||861,047||956,756|
|Private donors in the United States of America||602,268||0||0||17,500||619,768|
|Republic of Korea||1,500,000||0||0||0||1,500,000|
|United Arab Emirates||160,000||0||0||0||160,000|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||11,226,075||0||0||0||11,226,075|
|United States of America||75,797,000||0||0||0||75,797,000|
|Private donors in China||0||0||0||72||72|
|Private donors in France||58,480||0||0||0||58,480|
|Private donors in Singapore||0||0||0||575||575|
|Private donors in Switzerland||0||0||0||1,108||1,108|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||0||0||0||12,006||12,006|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||220,016||0||0||75||220,091|
|United States of America||406,672||0||0||1,000,000||1,406,672|
|Private donors in Kuwait||100,000||0||0||0||100,000|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||40,000||0||0||0||40,000|
|United States of America||1,224,976||0||0||2,000,000||3,224,976|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||0||0||243,200||0||243,200|
|United States of America||0||0||2,200,000||10,800,000||13,000,000|
|Private donors in Philippines||0||0||602,373||0||602,373|
|Private donors in the United States of America||0||0||87,369||0||87,369|
|United States of America||0||0||0||500,000||500,000|
|Thailand Multi-Country Office|
|Private donors in China||5,161||0||0||0||5,161|
|Private donors in France||167,544||0||0||0||167,544|
|Private donors in Thailand||3,702,070||0||0||1,215,418||4,917,488|
|United States of America||0||0||0||2,000,000||2,000,000|
|Thailand Multi-Country Office subtotal||3,874,775||21,300||0||3,665,418||7,561,493|