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:

| Bangladesh | Brunei Darussalam | Cambodia | Indonesia |Lao People’s Democratic Republic | Malaysia | Mongolia | Myanmar | Philippines | Singapore | Thailand | Timor-Leste | Viet Nam |

Subregion: South East Asia


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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.


  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South East Asia

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2020 {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"budget":[169.348267493,139.74159814200002,186.14113247,326.58805622000006,403.70435415000003,425.85216565999997],"expenditure":[59.542463950000005,56.2090856,99.25054657,212.90504519,227.37807072,242.05530565]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[114.01420427400001,104.8296167,149.94478163,280.22573367,365.60070766,373.30422281],"p2":[20.40722544,7.317298551,10.917601789999999,27.80146192,25.70885083,30.102338969999998],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[34.926837778999996,27.594682890999998,25.278749050000002,18.56086063,12.39479566,22.44560388]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[43.66420899,39.16382945,81.69782382,190.41983829,205.15482237,210.00201606],"p2":[6.57623988,5.094947769999999,5.55401014,12.490434,14.54154871,15.485859529999999],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[9.30201508,11.950308380000001,11.99871261,9.994772900000001,7.68169964,16.56743006]}
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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]]
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Response in 2020

Amidst 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 environment

In 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 2020

UNHCR’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

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Bangladesh Budget
Indonesia Budget
Malaysia Budget
Myanmar Budget
Philippines Budget
Thailand Multi-Country Office Budget
Total Budget

2020 Voluntary Contributions to South East Asia | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 4
IDP projects
South East Asia overall
United States of America 0007,750,000 7,750,000
South East Asia overall subtotal 0007,750,000 7,750,000
Australia 11,531,967000 11,531,967
Canada 2,417,992000 2,417,992
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 2,080,076000 2,080,076
Education Cannot Wait 739,496000 739,496
European Union 8,242,064000 8,242,064
France 1,138,330000 1,138,330
Germany 4,543,353001,175,088 5,718,441
Ireland 1,100,110000 1,100,110
Italy 1,543,550000 1,543,550
Japan 2,001,488006,000,000 8,001,488
New Zealand 1,297,017000 1,297,017
Norway 869,313000 869,313
Private donors in Australia 94,460000 94,460
Private donors in Belgium 94000 94
Private donors in Canada 21,536000 21,536
Private donors in China 450,906000 450,906
Private donors in Denmark 3,44700117 3,564
Private donors in Egypt 26,665000 26,665
Private donors in France 264,859000 264,859
Private donors in India 1,761000 1,761
Private donors in Italy 00016,556 16,556
Private donors in Japan 42,073000 42,073
Private donors in Kenya 1,077000 1,077
Private donors in Kuwait 560,8810098,466 659,347
Private donors in Lebanon 360,814000 360,814
Private donors in Mexico 20000 20
Private donors in Oman 9,481000 9,481
Private donors in Philippines 13,437000 13,437
Private donors in Qatar 8,000,000000 8,000,000
Private donors in Saudi Arabia 88,786000 88,786
Private donors in Singapore 1,227,616000 1,227,616
Private donors in South Africa 261000 261
Private donors in Spain 1,045000 1,045
Private donors in Sweden 8,680000 8,680
Private donors in Switzerland 28,030000 28,030
Private donors in Thailand 6,744000 6,744
Private donors in the Netherlands 1,000,000000 1,000,000
Private donors in the Republic of Korea 103,432000 103,432
Private donors in the United Arab Emirates 272,187000 272,187
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 95,70900861,047 956,756
Private donors in the United States of America 602,2680017,500 619,768
Republic of Korea 1,500,000000 1,500,000
Sweden 3,807,864000 3,807,864
Turkey 40,525000 40,525
United Arab Emirates 160,000000 160,000
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 11,226,075000 11,226,075
United States of America 75,797,000000 75,797,000
Bangladesh subtotal 143,322,491008,168,774 151,491,265
Australia 239,500000 239,500
Japan 000200,000 200,000
Private donors in China 00072 72
Private donors in France 58,480000 58,480
Private donors in Singapore 000575 575
Private donors in Switzerland 0001,108 1,108
Private donors in the Republic of Korea 00012,006 12,006
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 220,0160075 220,091
UNAIDS 27,400000 27,400
United States of America 406,672001,000,000 1,406,672
Indonesia subtotal 952,068001,213,836 2,165,904
Japan 0001,000,000 1,000,000
Private donors in Kuwait 100,000000 100,000
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 40,000000 40,000
Qatar 684,103000 684,103
UNAIDS 108,850000 108,850
United States of America 1,224,976002,000,000 3,224,976
Malaysia subtotal 2,157,929003,000,000 5,157,929
Australia 00664,0111,304,631 1,968,642
Canada 000363,636 363,636
China 0299,96300 299,963
European Union 0969,035394,8250 1,363,860
France 00853,916284,414 1,138,330
Germany 0001,187,648 1,187,648
Japan 01,045,431372,7500 1,418,181
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 00243,2000 243,200
Switzerland 000511,771 511,771
United States of America 002,200,00010,800,000 13,000,000
Myanmar subtotal 02,314,4294,728,70214,452,101 21,495,232
Australia 00677,9660 677,966
Japan 000200,000 200,000
Private donors in Philippines 00602,3730 602,373
Private donors in the United States of America 0087,3690 87,369
United States of America 000500,000 500,000
Philippines subtotal 001,367,708700,000 2,067,708
Thailand Multi-Country Office
Australia 021,30000 21,300
Japan 000450,000 450,000
Private donors in China 5,161000 5,161
Private donors in France 167,544000 167,544
Private donors in Thailand 3,702,070001,215,418 4,917,488
United States of America 0002,000,000 2,000,000
Thailand Multi-Country Office subtotal 3,874,77521,30003,665,418 7,561,493
Total 150,307,2622,335,7296,096,41038,950,129 197,689,530
Latest contributions
  • 20-SEP-2021
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  • 31-AUG-2021

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