Improving Refugee Protection in Asia-Pacific: How Civil Society and the Australian Government Can Make a Practical Difference

Asher Hirsch and Dr Daniel Ghezelbash

2Monash University, Clayton, Australia

For several years, governments, civil society representatives and academics have been discussing the need for Asia-Pacific regional cooperation to improve the protection of refugees. It is most often raised as a longer term alternative to address the factors which push people seeking asylum on to dangerous boat journeys. How realistic is this idea? What would it involve and what is the role of civil society and governments in address this issue? In this paper, based on interviews and surveys with civil society members in Asia-Pacific, we discuss the options for countries in Asia-Pacific to adopt a more humane and protection focused refugee policies. We also discuss Australia’s role in the region – a role that has focused on deterrence and responsibility shifting rather than genuine regional cooperation. However, we argue that Australia can, and should, play a more positive role in promoting practical solutions to refugee protection in the region. One key area for such development is increasing support for civil society organisations working with refugees in Asia-Pacific. Rather than an abstract ideal, regional cooperation can be a realistic and practical solution to supporting refugees in Asia-Pacific.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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