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.