From Crisis to Collaboration: Reflections on ASEAN’s protection mechanisms for forced migration

Overview

ON THIS PAGE

From Crisis to Collaboration: Reflections on ASEAN’s protection mechanisms for forced migration is a report from CPD’s Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration, authored by Caitlin McCaffrie and Christy Kumesan.

The report summarises the processes and frameworks that already exist within ASEAN to address forced migration, and provides recommendations on how they can be improved to provide better protection for displaced persons in the region.

The report shows that, rather than needing to create an entirely new regional architecture, ASEAN already has a number of frameworks that can be built upon in order to better address escalating forced migration crises throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.

Download The Report

From Crisis to Collaborationsummarises the processes and frameworks that already exist within ASEAN to address forced migration, and provides recommendations on how they can be improved to provide better protection for displaced persons in the region.

Why does ASEAN need better protection mechanisms for forced migration?

Southeast Asia is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, yet it has the lowest rate of acceptance of the Refugee Convention of any region in the world. While some states have established effective refugee policies, many others struggle with implementation, leading to an inconsistent patchwork of rights and protections across and within states.

The lack of a unified protection framework within ASEAN leaves the region unprepared to address crises as they emerge, let alone adequately prepare for them, which regularly results in improvised and inadequate responses to forced migration.

Crises in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka are likely to cause more widespread displacement, with additional global impacts from ongoing issues in Gaza and Ukraine further complicating the issue. No single country can handle these challenges alone; regional cooperation is crucial.

In late 2023, Indonesia faced a renewed refugee crisis when over 1,500 ethnic Rohingya arrived in Aceh on nine boats in just four weeks. This number was greater than the total arrivals from 2020 to 2022. Furthermore, 2023 was the deadliest year for maritime migration in the region since the Andaman Sea Crisis in 2015. Without a committed approach to refugee issues, ASEAN risks repeating mistakes of the past that will only lead to more loss of life.

What does the report recommend?

  1. Incorporate forced migration in the ASEAN Community’s Post 2025 Vision: ASEAN is set to announce its next 20 year vision in 2025 during Malaysia’s chairmanship. This is a key opportunity to recognise and embed the protection of displaced persons in ASEAN’s future vision.
  2. Build better connected employment and education pathways: Officially recognising and providing opportunities for employment and education for refugees would immensely benefit both migrants and host communities.
  3. Enhancing search and rescue capabilities: ASEAN already has effective search and rescue measures to respond to accidents and natural disasters, it makes sense to expand this framework to address refugee related distress situations.
  4. Establish an ASEAN ministerial dialogue on forced migration: ASEAN already conducts a number of high level dialogues across a range of issues, the addition of a ministerial dialogue on forced migration would allow states to discuss and implement policies and frameworks to better address forced migration.
  5. Creating an ASEAN Declaration on Forced Migration: An official Declaration on the rights of refugees and the responsibility of ASEAN states to uphold international principles of humanitarian assistance would encourage more collaboration and better responses to forced migration.
  6. Create a multi-stakeholder ASEAN forum on forced migration: Bringing in external actors with expertise in areas of forced migration, particularly amongst civil society, would contribute greatly to the development of practical policies and strategies that address the needs and rights of refugees.

About the authors

ON THIS PAGE

Search