Refugee Movements in South-East Asia 2018 - June 2019
Searching for safety
Four years after the 2015 Andaman Sea crisis, refugees in South-East Asia continue to risk their lives, albeit in smaller numbers, to reach safety in hope of securing a better future for themselves and their families.
Safe and legal pathways for refugees and asylum seekers, and regional cooperation to rescue those in distress, can prevent violations of human rights and loss of lives of people on the move.
This report presents the trends of refugee movements in South-East Asia observed by UNHCR between January 2018 and June 2019, highlighting the serious risks taken by people to cross international borders through irregular pathways. Recognizing the diversity of people on the move in the region, this report also sheds light on several groups of economic migrants traveling along the same routes as refugees.
Persistent push factors in countries of departure
The majority of refugees moving through South-East Asia are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from Myanmar. Rohingya suffer serious limitations on their basic human rights in their country of origin, depriving them of opportunities to lead decent lives and dimming their hopes for a secure future. Since August 2017, 741,947 Rohingya refugees have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh,3 from the northern part of Rakhine State in Myanmar to escape violence and persecution.
In late 2018 and 2019, the intensification of conflict between the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist armed group, and the Myanmar Armed Forces has led to increasing insecurity in northern part of Rakhine State, displacing approximately 22,000 people.4 While these security developments have not led to an appreciable increase in persons seeking international protection to date, they have nevertheless adversely impacted an already complex protection environment, exacerbating pre- existing challenges and difficulties for Rohingya to move and access livelihoods.
In Bangladesh, the Government with the support of the international community has mounted a large scale multi-sectorial response through the Joint Response Plan (JRP) to address the humanitarian needs of some 906,500 refugees.5 Despite these efforts, challenges for refugees remain. Restrictions on livelihood and education opportunities, dwindling financial support to meet humanitarian needs, fragile peaceful coexistence with the hosting communities and the uncertain time period required to secure a sustainable solution in Myanmar are factors compelling many refugees to move onward.