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In 2020, Rohingya men, women, and children continue to embark across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, and States continue to lack safe and predictable disembarkation protocols and standards. From a protection perspective, the situation in 2020 has played out as it did in 2015 showing a lack of progress. After decades of discriminatory policies, denial of basic human rights, and targeted violence, at least 1.5 million stateless Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State to seek refuge in the region and scattered locations around the globe, often surviving horrendous journeys by sea in the hope of disembarking with even marginally better prospects. The reception of the Rohingya in each of their places of refuge has been mixed, but it has rarely if ever been one of unqualified welcome. How do we engage with challenges that seem so intractable? The academic literature looking at refugee protection in the Asian region has largely dealt with its absence or inadequacy. Yet if we look more closely at any specific context in Asia, we can see that States may have laws, policies, or practices that can be utilised to recognise or respond to protection needs; international institutions like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr) are often recognised and permitted to conduct protection activities; civil society actors in every jurisdiction have developed substantial capacity for operationalising protection in practice; and refugees themselves are coping and contributing to their own protection in every case. It is at the national and local levels where protection capacity must be built towards implementation of a ‘whole-of-society’ approach.

In: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law