Youth: Open Space #3 : Refugees Situation in Southeast Asia

Published by AYF Secretariat on

One of the issues in Southeast Asia revolves around refugees. While ASEAN is seen to overlook the safety and rights of Refugees in the region, youth raises voices and concerns regarding the refugees in Southeast Asia.

On the 21st of June (Sunday), ASEAN Youth Forum conducted the Youth: Open Space for youth to discuss refugees during the coronavirus pandemic and their situation in Southeast Asia. Over 75 youth in Southeast Asia attended the session. The participating youth are coming from 10 countries, which are  Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines, Timor Leste,  and Vietnam.

It was an entirely youth-led discussion, co-hosted by Ruthra from Malaysia and Ella from Timor Leste. Rizka Argadianti Rachmah, the chairperson of SUAKA (an association of refugee's rights protection in Indonesia), also accommodate the youth with relevant knowledge and issues regarding refugees in Southeast Asia.

Youth have concern over the livelihood of the refugees in Southeast Asia and how ASEAN could do much better in addressing the issues. The participants call on young Southeast Asians to learn more about the issues and strategize to promote the protection of refugees' rights.

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Here are some highlights from the session

My main concern on the refugees is attached to the Rohingya Muslim Refugee, which has been floating for a couple of weeks in the ocean due to the reality of no countries would like to accept them.. because of the fear that they could bring Covid-19 within them. From the newest report, they were now on an island in Bangladesh, and in need of food and humanitarian aids. 

We should give more attention to this issue because everybody lives matter. From this forum, I've also learned that youth should stand and speak more because the future world is in our hands.

Syabila (Indonesia)

I was unaware and had so little information about refugees and the existence of xenophobia. Hearing other’s opinions and thoughts on this very important matter made me realize that this action of landing hand to the refugees should be done in all of ASEAN countries

Aidden (Timor Leste)

In Malaysia there was a campaign about #MigrantJugaManusia. This campaign aims to reduce the stigma about refugee and migrant. The campaign did on middle April until early May

Ruthra (Malaysia)

I think the important think for the refugee is to provide them education. But this is more important to provide them the education that is recognized by the country. Because I have seen many refugees who are in Thailand, they got education but not recognized by the Government. So after they finish their high school they can’t go on college or university. So I think this is very important to provide them education that are recognize and qualified by the Country.

Naw Pow Lah (Myanmar)

Talk about rule of law to accommodate the refugees rights. We must urge the Government to ensure their rights.

Sam (Cambodia)

Knowing that Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee convention, but there must be a humanitarian act to assist these refugees instead of rejecting them, recognising that they suffered in their own country and were here to seek help, not to get mistreated.

 Malaysian Government guaranteed to take care of the rohingyas when were questioned by the media, but they failed to do so. So my alternative is to have this issue to be raised among the ASEAN community to pressure the Malaysian government and raise awareness among the ASEAN community to stop discrimination and provide a better life etc on education healthcare for these people as they are humans like all of us.


Derrick Liaw (Malaysia)

It's important for the youth to be aware of how their country treats their refugees. It's more on the concern for their safety and protection, and for the youth to rally in promoting our practices here in the Philippines on how we treat our refugees creates a bridge of influence. By making the youth aware and be involved in acts like these results to neighboring countries to adapt the system, therefore leading a practice that is necessary during these times in the pandemic

Jay Z (The Philippines)

I just would like to highlight that one of the most important thing that we can do is respect them (Refugees). We should have this kind of awareness that they choose to leave their line or flee to a foreign country not because of the wanted to. So let’s respect those people. And let’s break those things in our mind that you should be like this or like that. And keep in our mind that no matter with their religion or color we should displace people as part of the basic human being. 

Laica Bagnes (The Philippines)

strengthen the rule of law about refugee. So they can get their rights.

Justin Felicia (The Philippines)

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