APRRN HLOM statement

APRRN urges the High Level Officials Meeting to increase efforts to respond to the needs of those displaced from Afghanistan and Myanmar and to include civil society and refugee led organizations more fully in those efforts and the HLOM.

Bangkok, 13 December 2021: The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), a network of over 200 active civil society organisations and individuals from 29 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region, welcomes the opportunity to participate in the High Level Officials Meeting in Geneva. APRRN, through its membership and the work of its Secretariat, has engaged with the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Refugee Forum. APRRN is a signatory to two pledges addressing the provision of legal aid and the meaningful participation of refugees which followed the Global Refugee Forum of 2019.

APRRN commends progress made towards achieving the GCR’s four key objectives while acknowledging the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the work still required to realize the goals of the GCR. The recent crises in Afghanistan and Myanmar demonstrate the scale of the task to support conditions for safe and dignified return but equally evince the need for greater support for host countries and third countries solutions, and a renewed effort to provide refugees with opportunities for social and economic participation in host countries.

In light of the current conditions in the Asia Pacific region, APRRN wishes to draw attention to the following issues and situations in the hope that this will assist senior government officials and representatives of relevant stakeholder groups to take stock of progress made in achieving the objectives of the GCR.

1. Without a whole of society approach, the GCR’s objectives will not be realized. Civil society organizations are essential actors in achieving refugee protection and integration, and in meeting the basic needs of displaced people—needs made more acute by the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the legal community illustrates the role that civil society can take in achieving refugee protection and APRRN draws the attention of the meeting to the PILNet pledge on pro bono legal assistance.

APRRN commends the attention paid to and wholeheartedly supports the meaningful participation of refugees in all aspects of refugee responses. In this regard, APRRN draws attention to the work of the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees and supports the statement issued by the Global Refugee Led Network to the HLOM. Without the inclusion and leadership of refugees, the GCR cannot succeed.

APRRN is disappointed by the lack of opportunities provided in the preparatory roundtables and in the HLOM for voices from civil society, especially refugee-led organizations, to be considered; little scope exists for interventions by these organizations in the meeting program. APRRN also notes that the HLOM focuses on speakers from the Global North and is concerned that the perspectives of people and organizations from the Global South, where most refugees are hosted, will not be adequately considered.

APRRN would also like to highlight the need for all work towards the objectives of the GCR to include all refugees and to provide responses suitable for women and girls, religious and ethnic minorities, and LGBTIQ+ refugees.

2. Afghanistan. Afghans make up one of the largest refugee populations worldwide. Due to the current situation, the numbers of people fleeing will likely continue to rise. The situation of Afghan refugees illustrates well the need for progress in meeting the GCR’s objectives. In particular, APRRN notes that the vast majority of Afghan refugees are hosted by Iran and Pakistan. It is critical that increased resources are provided to responses in those countries, especially to civil society and refugee-led organizations providing essential services to the forcibly displaced. The lived reality of displacement for Afghan refugees, whether newly displaced or having fled in the previous years, also demonstrates the need to work with host countries to give refugees access to decent work and meaningful opportunities for integration while expanding access to third country solutions. APRRN notes the insufficient, piecemeal, and opaque nature of resettlement for displaced Afghans in critical need of protection in neighboring countries and in Afghanistan. Responses to the displacement have been chaotic and continue to be so. Consequently, many Afghans lack safety and are struggling to survive.

APRRN further notes the impossible situation of Afghans across the region and would like to draw the attention of the meeting to recent refugee protests in Indonesia. Extreme hardship caused by a lack of recognition of refugee rights and needs, lack of access to decent work, the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access to third country solutions over protracted periods, and—crucially—a dearth of meaningful and respectful engagement with displaced communities have provoked a crisis that more substantial progress towards the GCR’s objectives and meaningful refugee participation might have avoided.

3. Myanmar. The situation of Myanmar’s forcibly displaced people, especially Rohingya refugees, again illustrates the core importance of the GCR’s objectives and the pledges made on the meaningful participation of refugees, while underscoring the considerable distance left to travel before these goals are reached. Host countries—Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and Thailand—must be provided sufficient support in parallel with an emphasis on allowing refugees to achieve self-reliance through recognition of their rights, especially to free movement, education, and decent work, and the need for much increased resettlement places and access to complementary pathways. Responsibility sharing is currently lacking. No solutions are on the table. APRRN is concerned that attention is waning from the now protracted displacement, with a progressive deterioration of the security situation in the camps in Bangladesh, illustrated most violently by the recent assassination of Mohibullah.

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is a network of over 200 active civil society organisations and individuals from 29 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. APRRN aims to advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection through joint advocacy, capacity strengthening, resource sharing, and outreach. While APRRN statements are prepared in consultation with members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all APRRN members. For further information or comment on the GCR and the HLOM, please contact Chris Eades, Secretary General, APRRN at sg@aprrn.org.