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:
By clicking on the icons on the map, additional information is displayed.
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 - 2019[["Refugees",1043778],["Refugee-like situation",48659],["Asylum-seekers",55257],["IDPs",490915],["Returned IDPs",116747],["Returned refugees",879],["Stateless",1053735],["Others of concern",184735]]
Response in 2019Durable solutions remained an elusive goal in the region. Protracted conflicts prevented sustainable return, while the gap between resettlement spaces and identified needs continued to grow.
Refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar remained the largest population of concern at the end of 2019, with some 1.1 million people across the sub-region (855,000 in Bangladesh, 154,000 in Malaysia and 93,000 in Thailand). Moreover, some 600,000 stateless persons and 300,000 IDPs — many of whom were also stateless — were of concern to UNHCR in Myanmar. The vast majority of these refugees and stateless persons were Rohingya (with the exception of those in Thailand), whose right to freedom of movement, as well as access to livelihoods and education, remained limited in 2019. UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh completed the registration of all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2019, issuing them individual documentation and establishing a tool to help exercise their right to return to Myanmar. In Myanmar, UNHCR continued to advocate for the rights and status of Rohingya who remained in Rakhine State, while working with UNDP to conduct needs assessments and implement quick impact projects to improve conditions in the northern townships of the state. UNHCR also facilitated the voluntary return of nearly 900 Karen and Karenni refugees from Thailand to Myanmar, while working with the respective governments to enable a dignified, sustainable and comprehensive end to the decades-long encampment of the remaining 93,200 refugees in Thailand.
In the absence of durable solutions, UNHCR focused its engagement with countries in South-East Asia on comprehensive protection and resilience, such as expanded legal pathways and enhanced access to education and livelihoods. Notable progress was made on alternatives to the detention of children in Thailand, with the release of children and their mothers from the main immigration detention centre by the end of 2019. The Malaysian Government was finalizing plans to grant refugees the right to work in certain sectors; and in Indonesia, refugee children began to enrol in public schools.
In addition to Malaysia’s research into statelessness and the status of individual documentation in the eastern part of the country, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) developed a research report examining the legal and policy framework on identity and nationality for women and children in ASEAN Member States, with UNHCR’s support. In collaboration with the Regional Support Office for the Bali Process and Thailand’s Ministry of Interior, a Bali Process Civil Registration Assessment Toolkit was piloted in Thailand, prior to roll out in Bali Process Member States. Halfway into the #IBelong campaign, almost 60,000 formerly stateless individuals in Thailand had either acquired nationality or had their nationality confirmed through reformed nationality and civil registration laws and policies.
Operations in South East Asia in 2019
Natural disasters and low intensity conflicts continued to cause recurrent or protracted internal displacement with nearly 702,000 people newly displaced in Mindanao during 2019. While some 49% had returned home by the end of the year, UNHCR remained concerned about their safety and ability to access basic services. The Philippines was host to a small refugee population of some 700 in 2019, along with some 330 asylum-seekers, while there were approximately 130,000 Sama Bajau people and nearly 400 people of Indonesian descent at risk of statelessness.
UNHCR co-led the protection cluster in support of the Government’s response to internal displacement and supported capacity-building toward full government leadership. UNHCR also provided limited financial assistance and continued advocacy for education and employment opportunities. UNHCR supported the implementation of the 1954 Convention and the national action plan to end statelessness, helping nearly 8,400 people of Indonesian descent and around 400 Sama Bajaus to obtain crucial documentation.
As co-lead of the protection working group, UNHCR continued capacity-building activities in newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), including in emergency preparedness and response to internal displacement. Protection, humanitarian assistance and protection monitoring activities were sustained, and the resolution of housing, land, and property issues was also advanced. Quick impact projects allowed vulnerable communities to meet their urgent needs and, in coordination with the local government, a solutions-oriented IDP profiling exercise was conducted in BARMM.
Viet Nam had made considerable progress since 2002 in addressing nationality and documentation issues, notably through naturalization, birth registration and determination of nationality for children, as well as issuing of permanent residence permits for eligible migrants. In 2019, Viet Nam developed a strategic plan to address statelessness and started preparations to accede to one or both statelessness conventions.
Operational environmentIn 2018, UNHCR’s response in South East Asia continued to be dominated by the situation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, over 700,000 of whom fled violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in 2017. The humanitarian needs of both the refugees in Bangladesh and the stateless persons in Myanmar are likely to remain immense and dire in 2019. 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.
While only three countries in the sub-region are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the principle of non-refoulement is largely respected. UNHCR continues 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.
Despite the crisis in Rakhine State, progress towards solutions for refugees from other parts of Myanmar continues to be made. For non-Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, several hundred voluntarily returned from Thailand in 2018, and voluntary repatriation options are now being explored for those in Malaysia and other host countries. 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 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.
In 2019, UNHCR will advocate for regional support for the Rohingya crisis through a Solidarity Approach for the People of Rakhine State to which countries in the region and beyond could make contributions in a variety of areas. Regional mechanisms such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Bali Process will also be encouraged to facilitate contributions, and to prepare for any continued or onward movement of refugees to other countries in the region.
Addressing statelessness remains a key strategic priority for UNHCR in the region, in close collaboration and cooperation with ASEAN member states. UNHCR’s statistics indicate that over 40 per cent of the world’s stateless persons currently reside in ASEAN Member States, including two of the world’s third largest stateless populations.
Building on past success, the Philippines and Thailand continue to take steps to reduce statelessness. The Philippines has a National Action Plan (NAP) to end statelessness in the country by 2024. Cambodia and Viet Nam are in the process of reforming civil registration and nationality laws, efforts that will contribute to the identification, reduction and prevention of statelessness.
UNHCR will continue to support the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children in increasing civil registration coverage and realizing the right to a nationality of women and children in ASEAN. UNHCR and the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process have supported the development of a Civil Registration Assessment Toolkit, which aims to help states in assessing and improving 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 planning to be piloted in Malaysia and Thailand.
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 on providing legal identity for all by 2030. UNHCR will further strengthen links with academic and research institutions to improve baseline data and to identify possible solutions, and further develop partnerships with civil society organizations committed to resolving statelessness in the region. UNHCR will support civil society advocacy and interventions, and is collaborating with the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness in Melbourne University and the Statelessness Network for Asia and Pacific (SNAP) to promote capacity building and enhance collaboration among civil society organizations engaged in statelessness work.
Response and implementation
UNHCR’s operations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar 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 continue building the protection capacity of local actors for IDPs in Mindanao.
In the Philippines, UNHCR is also providing technical and material support to strengthen the government inter-agency initiative to identify, reduce, and prevent statelessness through the NAP. Discussions are underway to enact comprehensive legislation for the protection of refugees and stateless persons, and the government of the Philippines has pledged to work towards acceding to the 1961 Convention with UNHCR technical support.
In Cambodia, UNHCR is providing technical support to the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Identification in reforming its law on Civil Registration, Identification and Vital Statistics to allow better access to civil registration for refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, and persons of undetermined nationality.
In Viet Nam, UNHCR will continue to support the Ministry of Justice in enhancing the identification of stateless persons; reduction of statelessness in the border areas with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and protection of stateless persons who reside in the border areas with Cambodia. These efforts would eventually result in a strategic plan on the potential reform of the nationality law and policies in preparation for Viet Nam’s possible accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.
2019 Budget and Expenditure in South East Asia | USD
|Thailand Regional Office||Budget|
2019 Voluntary Contributions to South East Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|South East Asia overall|
|Private donors in Germany||0||0||0||454,545||454,545|
|United States of America||0||0||0||7,300,000||7,300,000|
|South East Asia overall subtotal||0||0||0||7,754,545||7,754,545|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||890,875||0||0||0||890,875|
|Education Cannot Wait||1,639,226||0||0||0||1,639,226|
|Private donors in Australia||87,105||0||0||271,179||358,284|
|Private donors in China||183,064||0||0||99,955||283,020|
|Private donors in Denmark||1,221||0||0||0||1,221|
|Private donors in Egypt||19,961||0||0||258||20,219|
|Private donors in France||16,392||0||0||0||16,392|
|Private donors in Germany||363,846||0||0||0||363,846|
|Private donors in India||2,048||0||0||0||2,048|
|Private donors in Italy||6,400||0||0||0||6,400|
|Private donors in Japan||90,381||0||0||0||90,381|
|Private donors in Kenya||31||0||0||0||31|
|Private donors in Kuwait||216,820||0||0||6,579||223,399|
|Private donors in Lebanon||267,525||0||0||0||267,525|
|Private donors in Oman||21,814||0||0||0||21,814|
|Private donors in Philippines||18,908||0||0||0||18,908|
|Private donors in Qatar||3,000,000||0||0||22,215,000||25,215,000|
|Private donors in Saudi Arabia||502,298||0||0||0||502,298|
|Private donors in Singapore||10,026||0||0||0||10,026|
|Private donors in South Africa||234||0||0||0||234|
|Private donors in Spain||32,823||0||0||0||32,823|
|Private donors in Sweden||17,277||0||0||0||17,277|
|Private donors in Switzerland||30,313||0||0||0||30,313|
|Private donors in Thailand||108,347||0||0||0||108,347|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||297,707||0||0||4,484||302,191|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||24,777||0||0||0||24,777|
|Private donors in the United States of America||2,310,588||0||0||0||2,310,588|
|Republic of Korea||1,700,000||0||0||0||1,700,000|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||18,292,683||0||0||0||18,292,683|
|United States of America||81,916,050||0||0||0||81,916,050|
|Private donors in Australia||0||0||0||14,380||14,380|
|Private donors in Canada||0||0||0||527||527|
|Private donors in China||0||0||0||9,495||9,495|
|Private donors in France||0||0||0||5,151||5,151|
|Private donors in Italy||0||0||0||1,487||1,487|
|Private donors in Japan||0||0||0||1,229||1,229|
|Private donors in Kuwait||0||0||0||48||48|
|Private donors in Lebanon||0||0||0||275||275|
|Private donors in Saudi Arabia||0||0||0||460||460|
|Private donors in Singapore||0||0||0||292||292|
|Private donors in Spain||0||0||0||7,162||7,162|
|Private donors in Sweden||0||0||0||1,080||1,080|
|Private donors in Switzerland||0||0||0||587||587|
|Private donors in Thailand||0||0||0||3,437||3,437|
|Private donors in the Netherlands||0||0||0||283||283|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||0||0||0||22,300||22,300|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||0||0||0||6,509||6,509|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||0||0||0||3,925||3,925|
|United States of America||1,500,000||0||0||1,400,000||2,900,000|
|Private donors in Malaysia||119,451||0||0||0||119,451|
|United States of America||2,160,500||0||0||1,500,000||3,660,500|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||40,840||816,624||129,134||986,598|
|United States of America||0||0||0||10,900,000||10,900,000|
|Private donors in Philippines||0||0||404,807||0||404,807|
|United States of America||0||0||0||800,000||800,000|
|Private donors in Thailand||4,919,641||0||0||0||4,919,641|
|United States of America||1,522,149||0||0||2,500,000||4,022,149|
|Thailand Regional Office|
|Thailand Regional Office subtotal||0||85,600||0||83,004||168,604|