Golden Opportunity for ASEAN to Begin Recognizing Refugee Rights

Press Release

Golden Opportunity for ASEAN to Begin Recognizing Refugee Rights

[Jakarta, 24 January 2019] Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) appreciates the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN’s) effort in facilitating repatriation for Rohingya refugees facing persecution in Myanmar.  Earlier this week, ASEAN expressed the intent to address the issue of forced migration of Rohingya refugees within the ASEAN region. This comes as a response to the overwhelming need to facilitate a coordinated response to what has been described as the fastest-growing refugee crisis. The Rohingya, a stateless minority group residing in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, have suffered discrimination at the hands of the Myanmar government, and violent persecution by the military and nationalist vigilantes.

ASEAN’s repatriation efforts have been spearheaded by the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), which is coordinating the equitable distribution of aid and relief in affected areas of Myanmar. Along with overall support from the ASEAN community, these efforts have paved the way for the development of a clear pathway towards the realization of peace and human rights objectives.

In order to prevent further escalation of the crisis in Rakhine State, ASEAN must contribute to guarantee the safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees, working alongside ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation to resolve the key issues causing the conflict, and to promote reconciliation with upholding the principles of fair trial and human rights-based approaches.

In order to uphold accountability, it is crucial that Myanmar opens press freedom. Journalists should be free to seek and share information. Accordingly, Myanmar must release the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were imprisoned in 2017 for investigating human rights abuses in Rakhine State.

A comprehensive refugee rights policy should be introduced and developed by ASEAN as, since its establishment, ASEAN has not addressed refugee rights.

This crisis can be seen as a golden opportunity for ASEAN to begin to recognize refugee rights as well as begin to end practices such as mandatory detention. Alternative methods include: Supporting the health and well-being of migrants, strengthening the participation in immigration case resolution processes, improving voluntary and independent departure rates and avoiding wrongful detention, overcrowding and long-term detention.

For more information, please contact Mr. Daniel Awigra, Deputy Director of the Human Rights Working Group  at or +62817 6921757

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