UNHCR Regional update - Asia and the Pacific
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme
Overview of UNHCR’s operations in Asia and the Pacific
A. Situational context including new developments
As of 31 July 2017, there were some 9.5 million persons of concern to UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific, including 3.7 million refugees, 2.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 1.6 million stateless persons. Despite the generosity and good practices evident across the region, only 20 of its 45 countries and territories had acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, posing challenges in terms of refugee protection and solutions.
Afghans remained the largest refugee population of concern to UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific. In total, there were more than 2.2 million Afghan refugees worldwide, the vast majority of which were hosted in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan. Both countries have provided protection and assistance to Afghan refugees for almost four decades. The volatile security situation in Afghanistan continues to drive displacement, with more than 192,000 people forced to flee their homes in the first eight months of 2017. Over half of those displaced were under the age of 18.
The Islamic Republic of Iran continued to expand refugees’ access to healthcare through the universal public health insurance scheme supported by UNHCR. As of the end of July 2017, some 125,700 refugees were registered in the scheme, giving them access to the same level of services as Iranian nationals. Following last year’s presidential decree on equal opportunities in education, some 400,000 Afghan and Iraqi children, including 46,000 undocumented children, have been enrolled in school in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The second largest source of displacement in Asia and the Pacific was Myanmar, where conflict has forced people to flee internally and across borders for more than thirty years. By the end of 2016 there were more than 490,000 refugees from Myanmar, most of which were hosted in Bangladesh (276,200), Thailand (102,600), Malaysia (87,000) and India (15,600). While a landmark conference was held in May 2017 to address obstacles in Myanmar’s peace process, a number of key issues remain unresolved.
To address the root causes of violence in the area, the Myanmar Government appointed an Advisory Commission for Rakhine State in September 2016, led by former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The Commission submitted its final report on 23 August 20171 , recommending urgent and sustained action on a number of fronts to prevent violence and foster reconciliation. On 25 August 2017, armed non-State groups launched a series of attacks on government security forces in northern Rakhine State. As of 19 September 2017, an estimated 415,000 people had fled into neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the ensuing violence. UNHCR appreciates the role that Bangladesh has played in hosting refugees from Myanmar. The Office is working with local authorities and other partners to provide protection and life-saving support to new arrivals, including through the delivery of relief supplies.