On November 12, 2011 the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network will bring together key actors from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Macau and Taiwan to identify gaps, collaborative solutions, debate key issues and challenge misconceptions about the most vulnerable population in Asia: refugees.
Over half of the world’s refugees are found in the Asia Pacific Region, yet few countries in the region have developed any law or policy to address refugee issues. East Asia has the potential to lead positive developments in the field of refugee protection in the Asia Pacific region: Japan and Korea are amongst the few countries in Asia to sign on to the Refugee Convention, and although it is not yet a state-party to the Convention, Hong Kong has a strong civil society and rule of law that has led to several alternative systems of protection. The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRR”) believes that East Asia has both the capacity and the responsibility to establish a better refugee protection system and to support other countries in Asia to adopt protection mechanisms.
The East Asia Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network holds yearly symposium to bring relevant parties together and discuss key strategies and persistent issues. In 2010, a symposium was held in Seoul, Korea under the theme “Alternatives to Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees”. The symposium created a unique space for dialogue between governments and civil society about refugee protections systems in their own countries. In June 2000 the “International Symposium on Refugee Protection in the New Era and Civil Society” held in Japan focused on Japan’s pilot resettlement programme of Burmese starting in 2010. In 2011 it was Hong Kong’s turn to host the East Asia symposium. Hong Kong civil society recognizes that unless all levels of the community are actively engaged to bring about change, any progress will be slow, piecemeal and temporary, and as such is striving for broad collaboration among civil society leaders to contribute to solutions.
The symposium will be spread into 4 different panels with each of them addressing a different thematic focus. Key note speeches will be delivered by Brian Barbour (Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network & Japan Association for Refugees), Giuseppe de Vincentiis (UNHCR) and Ruby Puni (Consulate General of Canada). The first panel will discuss innovative ideas and solutions to common challenges around the region. This will be followed by a more in-depth discussion on key legislative and policy changes relating to refugees – this panel also provides an opportunity to discuss policy or lack of policy and its direct impact on refugee livelihoods. The afternoon panel takes a closer look at the practical needs of the refugee population in East Asia, and the consequences of social exclusion and the toll that a life in limbo can take. In particular the right to work will be discussed and how governments can find long-term solutions for successful integration. The symposium will conclude with a unique panel under the theme “Nothing About Us Without Us”, where 3 refugees will present their story and the enormous challenges they are facing in their daily survival.
The symposium will bring together key refugee rights advocates, practitioners, service providers, researchers and refugees themselves from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Macau. Prior to the symposium the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network is organizing a Refugee Mental Health Training to equip service providers with the tools and knowledge to deal with the mental health needs of refugees. The symposium is being coordinated by the East Asia Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and is jointly organized by: Vision First, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Society for Community Organization (SoCO), NANCEN, Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), International Social Services (ISS), Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC), Christian Action Chungking Mansions Service Centre, Centre for Comparative and Public Law at HKU, and Barnes and Daly Solicitors.