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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - South-East Asia

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 South-East Asia subregional operations map

Available protection space for refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people in the region is fragile and unpredictable, due to a lack of national legal frameworks in most South-East Asian countries. Furthermore, some States have introduced increasingly restrictive policies - such as denying safe disembarkation or access at the airport, and narrowing protection space and access to asylum. There is also an increase in maritime "push backs" and instances of refoulement.

Only three States are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and only one State has signed the 1954 Statelessness Convention. The lack of asylum laws and diversity of national legal frameworks, as well as government practices and protection environments in the region's countries, make achieving regional harmonization challenging.

A major component of UNHCR's work remains to increase the protection space for all groups of concern and to advocate with States in South-East Asia to establish effective legal frameworks governing the protection of refugees and stateless populations. A significant number of refugees and asylum-seekers in the region reside in urban settings, and some States without national asylum systems consider them to be illegal migrants, thereby subjecting them to detention, expulsion, refoulement, and other serious protection risks. The lack of legal status also prevents people of concern from accessing the labour market and basic services, including health care and education.

The irregular movements of people of concern in the region pose grave dangers to those who undertake them, with an increase in maritime movements and a loss of life at sea. They also present serious challenges in balancing governments' international obligations to provide fair access to protection and asylum to those in need, with the need to combat people-smuggling and human-trafficking networks, and the legitimate interest of States to maintain control of national borders.

In Myanmar,escalating inter-communal conflict in Rakhine State in June 2012 resulted in internal displacement as well as outflows to other regional countries, including irregularly by sea. An increasing number of women and children are risking their lives in unseaworthy boats. There are reports of exploitation, violence, trafficking, forced labour, as well as abuse in transit perpetrated to extract additional payment from relatives.

UNHCR will advocate upholding the rights of people of concern and States' adherence to international protection standards, in cooperation with the governments concerned and with the support of regional institutions and civil-society actors. Such cooperation aims to promote government ownership of refugee protection, particularly regarding refugees' access to protection, basic services and registration.

Where the necessary conditions are in place, comprehensive solutions and approaches will be pursued, including local integration, voluntary repatriation, resettlement, labour options and temporary stay arrangements.

UNHCR in South-East Asia will focus on establishing protection-sensitive responses to mixed migration, registration and documentation. It will support access to asylum and refugee status determination (RSD), and promote alternatives to detention. Additionally, the Office will continue to implement strategies aimed at improving protection and durable solution prospects for urban refugees, including targeted assistance to the most vulnerable urban refugees, and preventing refoulement.

The organization will continue to work with States to promote and implement comprehensive protection-sensitive responses to irregular movements of people and mixed migration, through regional initiatives, including the Regional Cooperation Framework endorsed by the Bali Process. A Regional Maritime Movements Monitoring Unit has been established in the Regional Office for South-East Asia, based in Bangkok.

UNHCR will continue to collaborate with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) human rights mechanisms and other entities on statelessness and refugee protection. It will continue to promote birth registration among all populations of concern to prevent statelessness and increase child protection. In a number of key States, UNHCR is working with governments to help reduce statelessness among minority communities.

| Response and implementation |

Operations in Myanmar and Thailand are presented in separate country chapters. For other countries where UNHCR operates in the subregion, please see below.

In early 2014, the Government of Bangladesh announced its national strategy for Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals, acknowledging their need for basic humanitarian relief. UNHCR hopes that this will enable unregistered refugees to access international protection. Meanwhile, UNHCR provides protection and life-sustaining assistance to refugees residing in the two official camps, pending the identification of durable solutions. The organization advocates for the prevention of statelessness, more self-reliance opportunities for urban refugees and durable solutions.

In Indonesia, UNHCR continues to provide mandate protection to refugees and asylum-seekers in a number of urban locations through registration, RSD, documentation and processing for resettlement and repatriation, where possible. The detention of refugees and asylum-seekers and the widespread location of people of concern remain key protection challenges in Indonesia, particularly for a growing number of children and detainees with specific needs. To improve the protection environment, the organization will support the capacity of local authorities. It will also assist those with specific protection needs, though funding shortfalls limit the number of people likely to benefit.

In Mongolia, UNHCR will continue to conduct RSD while advocating for the Government to establish asylum procedures and to promote further measures to address statelessness including potential accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks a legislative and administrative framework to address refugee matters. As all asylum-seekers and refugees are treated as irregular migrants, and in the absence of any substantive engagement by the authorities, UNHCR remains the principal actor in providing international protection. The Office will continue to address the issue of statelessness, including by identifying and seeking to reduce the number of people with undetermined nationality at risk of statelessness. UNHCR will also advocate regularizing the legal status of people of concern including through alternative stay arrangements and labour migration schemes.

The Emergency Transit Mechanism for resettlement processing will continue in the Philippines. Efforts to strengthen the national protection regime,in collaboration with government agencies and humanitarian partners, will continue. A complementary protection framework for people falling outside the Refugee Convention definition will be pursued. In the southern Philippines, UNHCR will co-lead the protection cluster with the Government's Department of Social Welfare and Development, to coordinate a response to the internal displacement situation.

UNHCR also works with communities of Indonesian origin living in southern Mindanao, as well as relevant government authorities and civil society, to resolve the nationality status of 6,015 people of concern under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.

The organization promotes the civil registration of all people of concern, and is active in improving civil registration and vital statistics in Asia and the Pacific. The Regional Office is pursuing better refugee protection in Cambodia and Timor-Leste by supporting asylum procedures and capacity building, as well as working with the Government of Viet Nam to resolve the nationality status of the remaining populations of concern under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.

| Financial information |

Since 2011, the financial requirements in the subregion have been affected by various developments, including in Myanmar by population displacement in Rakhine State in mid-2012, the escalation of conflict in Kachin State and the possibility of refugees voluntarily returning to Myanmar from Thailand as the peace process continues. In the Philippines, UNHCR has been involved in the coordinated humanitarian response to internal displacement caused by a series of natural disasters, the most recent being Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013. The subregional budget for 2015 stands at USD 157 million.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for South-East Asia (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 159,110,944 92,606,996 17,724,931 46,644,125 156,976,052
1. Includes activities in Cambodia and Viet Nam (from 2015).
2. As from 2015 Viet Nam is reported under Thailand Regional Office.
Bangladesh 12,385,988 14,425,575 8,731 0 14,434,305
Indonesia 8,146,793 6,910,233 89,942 0 7,000,175
Malaysia 20,161,428 16,410,089 830,521 0 17,240,610
Myanmar 68,108,703 10,746,411 13,848,084 43,178,231 67,772,726
Philippines 9,677,822 1,059,787 952,090 3,465,894 5,477,770
Thailand 32,803,303 36,035,542 1,197,917 0 37,233,459
Thailand Regional Office[1] 7,389,703 7,019,359 797,647 0 7,817,006
Viet Nam[2] 437,203 - - - -

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Philippines [1]
Refugees [2] 254
Asylum Seekers [3] 163
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 42,171
Returned IDPs [6] 334,888
Stateless Persons [7] 8,619
Various [8] 68
Total Population of Concern 386,163
Originating from Philippines [1]
Refugees [2] 669
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,540
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 42,171
Returned IDPs [6] 334,888
Various [8] 80,055
Total Population of Concern 459,323
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 100,000
2011 0
2010 0
2009 2,000
2008 591
2007 12,604
2006 3,639
2005 962
2004 416
2003 2,410
2002 1,059
2001 3,220
2000 0
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2006
More info 48,744
As at 15 January 2015
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record anywhere - ran ashore in the central Philippines, causing wide devastation, displacing 4 million people and killing at least 6,300. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. While most of the 4.1 million people who were displaced have either returned home to rebuild, or been relocated, solutions are still needed for some 20,000 people either living in shelters or - in a small number of cases - with host families.

The UN refugee agency and partners such as shipments and logistics giant United Parcel Service (UPS) were swift to respond last November, contributing funds for immediate needs and for long-term recovery. Funding was used to provide critical aid during the emergency, including tents, solar-powered lanterns and protection kits.

A year after the typhoon struck, some people in Leyte province, one of the areas hardest hit, are still rebuilding their lives. People still need help with physical dwellings, water and sanitation, hygiene, as well as land and property issues. Some live in tents, others have moved into transitional housing and some families are building new houses. Despite the trauma, there is a real sense of hope for the future among the people of Leyte. Photographer Phil Behan and UNHCR staff member Marjanna Bergman visited the central Philippines to record the situation today.

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.

Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, the central Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, a massive storm that wiped out entire communities and killed more than 6,000 people. Today, the residents of hard-hit areas such as Leyte Island are well on their way to rebuilding their lives.

#IBELONG: End Statelessness NowPlay video

#IBELONG: End Statelessness Now

Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness Play video

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness

When typhoon Haiyan swept Tacloban City, it took with it what people need the most to see their way through any hard time: light. UNHCR has provided people of the Philippines with relief items that are helping make a difference. Relief items such as solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area.

Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.Play video

Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.

In Tanauan, one of the coastal areas worst hit by Typhoon Haiyun, people are being given tents and assistance while they start rebuilding their homes and lives.

Philippines: Landless in MindanaoPlay video

Philippines: Landless in Mindanao

Displaced by fighting, one indigenous community in the Philippines didn't want food or shelter -- only training to stand up for their rights.
Philippines: Sex Strike Brings PeacePlay video

Philippines: Sex Strike Brings Peace

Displaced women in two villages on Mindanao Island find an unconventional way to stop their menfolk fighting, clear roads and start rebuilding amid a separatist rebellion.