Eighth Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting




The Eighth Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting (ADFM) was held from 27-29 June 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The meeting comes after the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok and the Bali Process Trafficking in Persons Working Group in Jakarta, held in the week prior. Our meeting was supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (KEMLU) and our Indonesian co-convenor, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. It provided an important opportunity for the exchange of ideas and new approaches as we strive for more effective, durable and dignified approaches to our shared forced migration challenges.

It also provided the opportunity, including through a special ASEAN reception, for the ADFM Secretariat and members to connect with ASEAN Permanent Representatives and the ASEAN sectoral bodies focused on transnational crime, human rights, women and children. We discussed how ASEAN can step up its role in migration governance in the region, particularly in relation to refugees and migrants at risk.

The Eighth Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting focused on:

  • The future of regional governance of refugees and migrants at risk, including implementation of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, and the roles of ASEAN and the Bali Process and their ongoing collaboration;
  • The future of regional practice in responding to the protection challenges of refugees and migrants at risk, particularly with regard to alternatives to the detention of children, trafficking in persons, and return and reintegration; and
  • Coordinated responses to mass displacement in Myanmar and Bangladesh, including to the identified risks of trafficking in persons.

We were pleased to find a strong desire among ADFM members to meet the aspirations and objectives of the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration in the region. Indeed, there are already many ways in which our agencies, countries and regional forums are stepping up to the task, through advances in both governance and practice. And there’s more we can do. We will continue to find innovative ways to elevate the issues in regional institutions, and build on the good work in the region to strengthen the protection system for refugees and migrants at risk.

Mass displacement of the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and the risks that displacement presents, continues to be a key challenge for the region. Despite the complexity, we were pleased to make some progress toward the region tackling that challenge in a coordinated way.

We developed concrete plans to respond to other significant protection issues in the region, including on good practice alternatives to child detention, prevention and countering trafficking in persons, and opportunities for work and livelihoods for refugees and migrants at risk.

Our ninth ADFM meeting, is likely to take place in February/March 2020.

Eighth Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration meeting attendees

Policy-makers and experts from nine countries in the region returned to Jakarta on 28-29 June 2019 for the eighth
meeting of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM). After constructive discussions over the two days about the pressing forced migration issues facing the region, ADFM Co-Convenors call on the region to elevate the protection of refugees and migrants at risk, and coordinated responses to mass displacement situations, as a priority issue for nation states and regional forums, ahead of the first Global Refugee Forum in December 2019.

ADFM members had a frank and constructive discussion on the mass displacement in Cox’s Bazar and Rakhine State. “Two years in, this displacement already affects the whole region. There are now clear opportunities for regional bodies
like ASEAN and the Bali Process to assist Myanmar and Bangladesh to continue to work towards the voluntary, sustainable repatriation, in safety and dignity, of the Rohingya to their homes in Rakhine State. This assistance needs to be coordinated and within the framework of the existing agreements between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and using all of the regional resources available,” said Co-Convenor Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti, from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

There is a strong desire in the region to meet the aspirations and objectives of the Global Compacts on Refugees and
Migration and use them as a framework for addressing the protection challenges facing refugees and migrants at risk.

The ADFM Secretariat was pleased to advance concrete plans to hold a roundtable on sharing regional practice on alternatives to child detention in Thailand in November 2019. The roundtable will focus on developing a regional platform and program of learning and action among interested countries and organisations. “Thailand has shown it is eager to be a leader on this issue in our region, and we are pleased to be able to work with the Thai Government on advancing this proposal” said Co-Convenor Sriprapha Petcharamesree, from the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University. The roundtable will be jointly arranged by the ADFM and International Detention Coalition.

Another key focus of the meeting was once again the role of ASEAN and the Bali Process in responding to protection challenges for refugees and migrants at risk. “Part of the appeal in meeting in Jakarta was that it allowed us to strengthen our connections with ASEAN sectoral bodies such as AICHR and ACWC, who each have an important mandate related to refugees and migrants” said Co-Convenor Dato’ Steve Wong, from the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia. “We are looking forward to working more closely with ASEAN bodies to advance coordinated responses to forced migration challenges in the region.” The ADFM held a reception with Permanent Representatives and other ASEAN officials on 27 June 2019, which was generously co-hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Finally, with six months until the Global Refugee Forum is held in Geneva in December, it is imperative the region make the most of this spotlight on forced migration issues. “An event to catalyse more support for the displaced populations in Bangladesh and Myanmar, particularly the Rohingya, would be an important step forward. Furthermore, there are also a number of steps that could be taken to better coordinate counter-trafficking and prevention efforts, in line with the recommendations of the ADFM’s recenttrafficking risk assessment of the situation in Cox’s Bazar,” said Co-Convenor Travers McLeod, CEO of the Centre for Policy Development.

The ADFM will be represented at the Bali Process Ad Hoc Senior Officials’ Meeting in Danang this week and will brief officials on the ideas advanced at its eighth meeting. It is expected that the ADFM will next meet around March 2020 and will continue to advance effective, durable and dignified responses to refugees and migrants at risk in the region.