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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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South East Asia
People of Concern - 2018[["Refugees",1091643],["Refugee-like situation",49984],["Asylum-seekers",46269],["IDPs",447955],["Returned IDPs",446034],["Returned refugees",95],["Stateless",1099201],["Others of concern",80169]]
Response in 2018At the end of 2018, the South East Asia sub-region hosted some 3.26 million people of concern to UNHCR, an increase of 15.4% compared to the end of 2017. The 17,000 Rohingya refugees who fled from Rakhine state in Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2018 were already of concern to UNHCR, due to their statelessness in Myanmar.
Following the large-scale displacement of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from the northern townships of Rakhine State to Bangladesh in 2017, the conditions in Rakhine State did not become conducive for voluntary repatriation in 2018, as the root causes contributing to their flight remained largely unchanged. Some progress was made in implementing the tripartite MoU signed by UNHCR, UNDP and the Government of Myanmar in June 2018. Under the MoU, UNHCR and UNDP conducted needs assessments in Rakhine State in the second half of 2018 and proposed the implementation of quick impact projects. However, UNHCR’s access to implement such projects and conduct further assessments was halted at the end of 2018 following an escalation in conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military.
In Bangladesh, a family counting exercise completed by UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh in 2018 identified a total of 900,000 Rohingya refugees. In the second half of 2018, UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh began registering refugees individually - some 35,000 were registered by the end of the year. Before and during the cyclone and monsoon seasons, UNHCR, working with the Government of Bangladesh and other partners, undertook major emergency preparedness measures to fortify 90,000 shelters, to level terrain on which to build new shelters, and to relocate the 27,000 refugees facing the highest risk of flooding and landslides. UNHCR also continued to lead the protection response in Cox’s Bazar, ensuring that the principle of non-refoulement was upheld and supporting the Government of Bangladesh in efforts to identify and care for refugees with specific needs.
UNHCR sought regional support and solutions for Rohingya refugees in 2018 by engaging ASEAN and convening member states in Geneva and Bangkok to advance a Solidarity Approach for the people of Rakhine State. The Solidarity Approach aims to encourage support for Myanmar and communities in Rakhine State aimed at creating conditions conducive to voluntary return, as well as enhance solidarity and responsibility sharing with Bangladesh and other refugee-hosting countries in the region.
Elsewhere in the sub-region, as available resettlement spaces decreased in 2018, UNHCR pursued alternative solutions by facilitating the voluntary repatriation of some 1,280 refugees from India to Sri Lanka and 93 refugees from Thailand to Myanmar. UNHCR also worked with the Governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand to create education and livelihood opportunities. UNHCR extended capacity-building support to the three countries in the sub-region party to the 1951 Refugee Convention—Cambodia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste—including the provision of refugee status determination training for asylum officials in the Philippines. UNHCR also worked to build the protection capacity of local actors to respond to the needs of IDPs in Myanmar and the Philippines.
With the exception of the Rohingya population, there were positive developments in combatting statelessness, and efforts to support Governments in reducing statelessness continued throughout the year. At the regional level, UNHCR continued its partnership with ASEAN’s Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to promote the legal identity of women and children, completing a report on research into the gaps in laws and policies in ASEAN member states.
UNHCR Operations in South East Asia in 2018Operations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are presented in separate country chapters. For other UNHCR operations in the subregion, please see below.
To support the Philippines in enhancing the asylum system and to address statelessness, UNHCR successfully advocated for the inclusion of people of concern in national programmes promoting self-reliance and enabling access to protection and documentation. Furthermore, in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, UNHCR continued its Protection Cluster lead role for IDPs, crafting a protection strategy which was endorsed by the Humanitarian Country Team.
Of the 14 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Office in Bangkok, the following seven do not have, or have only a minimal, UNHCR presence. In Cambodia, the Government reviewed its civil registration law to enhance the process for all populations in the country. UNHCR provided technical assistance to the Government to ensure that the changes increase access to legal documents for persons at risk of statelessness. In Mongolia, UNHCR registered new asylum-seekers, conducted RSD, prepared the resettlement applications for qualifying refugees, and actively engaged in individual case management, referring individuals to support services as necessary, while also supporting the extension of residence permits for people of concern. UNHCR received interns from a university in Singapore to work on emergency preparedness, protection and statelessness issues. In Viet Nam, the Government reviewed its law and policies, including nationality laws, in order to prevent and reduce statelessness. In December 2018, it granted citizenship to nearly 140 previously stateless persons and processed an additional 1,665 naturalization applications.
UNHCR undertook no major activities in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, nor in Timor-Leste in 2018.
In 2017, UNHCR’s response in the subregion was characterized by hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, to Bangladesh. First wave began in October 2016 and saw 70,000 people flee, the second, much larger flow began in August 2017 and has by November 2017 witnessed over 600,000 crossing the border. The humanitarian needs for people of concern to UNHCR on both sides of the border, refugees in Bangladesh, and stateless persons in Myanmar, are likely to remain immense and dire in 2018. As a result, there is a risk that maritime movements of refugees will resume using routes across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea to other countries in the subregion.
While only three countries in the subregion are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, most countries respect the principle of non-refoulement. 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 the Rakhine State, progress towards solutions for refugees from other parts of Myanmar continues to be made. Voluntary return is maybe feasible for non-Rohingya refugee populations in Malaysia, Thailand 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.
UNHCR’s statistics indicate that over 40 per cent of the world’s stateless persons currently reside in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States, including two of the world’s third largest stateless populations.
Significant progress is also being made on the identification and reduction of statelessness in Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, building on past successes. 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. The ‘2016 Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime’ recognized that the prevention and reduction of statelessness is a means to address the root causes of displacement.
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 (target 16.9) on providing legal identity for all by 2030. Links with academic and research institutions to improve baseline data and to identify possible solutions will continue to be strengthened and partnerships with civil society organizations committed to resolving statelessness in the region will be further developed.
UNHCR will advocate for regional support for the Rohingya crisis through regional mechanisms such as ASEAN and the Bali Process, and also utilize such mechanisms, particularly the Bali Process Task Force on Planning and Preparedness, to prepare for any onward movement of refugees to other countries in the region.
*as of November 2017
Response and implementation
Operations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar are presented in a separate country pages.
UNHCR has declared a Level 3 emergency in Bangladesh in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis. While continuing to deliver protection and the significant humanitarian assistance that will continue to be needed by refugees in Bangladesh in 2018, UNHCR will also seek to build the resilience of host communities in Bangladesh and advocate for regional support in addressing root causes through the development of the cross-border region between Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and northern Rakhine state, Myanmar. UNHCR considers it vital for the response to already at this stage reflect mid- to long-term aspects while at the same time ensuring that voluntary return of refugees in safety, dignity and sustainability to Myanmar remains a viable option and, as feasible, will work for within an overall regional approach that also takes into account refugee populations from Myanmar in other countries.
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.
UNHCR’s partnership with the Government of the Philippines in addressing statelessness is well-established. Priorities will include: supporting further progress in the Government’s work in cooperation with the Government of Indonesia to resolve the nationality status of persons of Indonesian descent residing in southern Mindanao; improving identification of potentially “at risk” populations; supporting the further strengthening of the civil registration and vital statistics system to help prevent statelessness and implementing the Government’s 2011 pledge to accede to the 1961 Convention.
In Mongolia, UNHCR will build on the visit of the Regional Representative and agreement on a new Memorandum of Understanding in late 2017 to improve mandate protection and solution options for refugees in the country.
In Viet Nam, UNHCR’s partnership with the Ministry of Justice is also well-established. UNHCR will continue to support the Government to consider reforming its nationality law to further preventing and reducing statelessness. Relevant priorities will include: supporting the Government in enhancing its 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 Viet Nam acceding to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
2018 Budget and Expenditure in South East Asia | USD
|Thailand Regional Office||Budget|
2018 Voluntary Contributions to South East Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|South East Asia overall|
|United States of America||0||0||0||21,600,000||21,600,000|
|South East Asia overall subtotal||0||0||0||21,600,000||21,600,000|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||2,926,734||0||0||0||2,926,734|
|Education Cannot Wait||282,807||0||0||0||282,807|
|International Organization for Migration||59,696||0||0||0||59,696|
|Private donors in Australia||1,433,269||0||0||0||1,433,269|
|Private donors in China||328,846||0||0||0||328,846|
|Private donors in Denmark||116,685||0||0||0||116,685|
|Private donors in Egypt||2,810||0||0||0||2,810|
|Private donors in France||7,292||0||0||0||7,292|
|Private donors in Germany||2,411,252||0||0||0||2,411,252|
|Private donors in India||687||0||0||0||687|
|Private donors in Italy||38,283||0||0||0||38,283|
|Private donors in Japan||1,082,890||0||0||0||1,082,890|
|Private donors in Kenya||10||0||0||0||10|
|Private donors in Kuwait||645,264||0||0||0||645,264|
|Private donors in Lebanon||33,085||0||0||0||33,085|
|Private donors in Mexico||61||0||0||0||61|
|Private donors in Oman||7,162||0||0||0||7,162|
|Private donors in Philippines||22,228||0||0||0||22,228|
|Private donors in Qatar||6,448,208||0||0||0||6,448,208|
|Private donors in Saudi Arabia||344,966||0||0||0||344,966|
|Private donors in Singapore||152,165||0||0||0||152,165|
|Private donors in South Africa||10||0||0||0||10|
|Private donors in Sweden||31,306||0||0||0||31,306|
|Private donors in Switzerland||1,475,373||0||0||0||1,475,373|
|Private donors in Thailand||23,299||0||0||0||23,299|
|Private donors in the Netherlands||33,611||0||0||0||33,611|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||111,559||0||0||0||111,559|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||370,867||0||0||0||370,867|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||20,326||0||0||0||20,326|
|Private donors in the United States of America||4,465,062||0||0||0||4,465,062|
|Republic of Korea||1,400,000||0||0||0||1,400,000|
|United Arab Emirates||2,084,700||0||0||0||2,084,700|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||13,089,005||0||0||0||13,089,005|
|United States of America||55,000,000||0||0||0||55,000,000|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||0||1,070,000||0||1,070,000|
|Private donors in Australia||0||0||45,008||0||45,008|
|Private donors in Canada||0||0||44,284||0||44,284|
|Private donors in China||0||0||411,922||0||411,922|
|Private donors in Egypt||0||0||3,382||0||3,382|
|Private donors in France||0||0||28,499||0||28,499|
|Private donors in Germany||0||0||68,182||0||68,182|
|Private donors in India||0||0||5,973||0||5,973|
|Private donors in Indonesia||0||0||2,144||0||2,144|
|Private donors in Italy||0||0||41,203||0||41,203|
|Private donors in Japan||0||0||141,339||0||141,339|
|Private donors in Kenya||0||0||49||0||49|
|Private donors in Kuwait||0||0||14,236||0||14,236|
|Private donors in Lebanon||0||0||76,645||0||76,645|
|Private donors in Oman||0||0||7,515||0||7,515|
|Private donors in Philippines||0||0||14,880||0||14,880|
|Private donors in Qatar||0||0||8,014||0||8,014|
|Private donors in Saudi Arabia||0||0||54,242||0||54,242|
|Private donors in Singapore||0||0||155,570||0||155,570|
|Private donors in South Africa||0||0||93||0||93|
|Private donors in Spain||0||0||1,123,708||0||1,123,708|
|Private donors in Sweden||0||0||227,471||0||227,471|
|Private donors in Switzerland||0||0||42,420||0||42,420|
|Private donors in Thailand||0||0||44,770||0||44,770|
|Private donors in the Netherlands||0||0||12,698||0||12,698|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||0||0||119,077||0||119,077|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||0||0||90,266||0||90,266|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||0||0||44,521||0||44,521|
|Private donors in the United States of America||0||0||256,000||0||256,000|
|United Arab Emirates||0||0||251,000||0||251,000|
|Private donors in Japan||387,976||0||0||0||387,976|
|Private donors in Qatar||488,716||0||0||0||488,716|
|Private donors in Singapore||300,000||0||0||0||300,000|
|United States of America||130,540||0||0||0||130,540|
|Republic of Korea||0||0||0||500,000||500,000|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||0||500,000||0||500,000|
|Private donors in Philippines||0||0||371,016||0||371,016|
|Private donors in Thailand||4,322,969||0||0||0||4,322,969|