Australian-Bhutanese Parsuram Sharma-Luital was elected chair of the Statelessness Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and would continue to serve on APRRN’s steering committee headed by Dr Gopal Siwakoti from Nepal.
Luital is the first Australian of Bhutanese origin elected to represent the Asia-Pacific NGOs that focus on protection challenges and vision for the future. More than 150 NGO and refugee community representatives from 22 countries gathered in Bangkok from September 2 to 4 for the biennial Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights.
The consultation reportedly focused on issues affecting refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people in the region from Iran and Japan to New Zealand, including protection challenges, NGO responses and options for collective advocacy.
Issues discussed included the worsening conditions for urban refugees, the increasing use of detention and limited access to durable solutions, Luital told Bhutan News Service.
The Luital-led group would focus on raising awareness among potential supporters and advocates about statelessness, identifying stateless populations in the region and understanding the common issues and challenges they face, collaborating and exchanging ideas and strategies among APRRN members on the issue of statelessness, and developing capacity strengthening programs for APRRN members to learn about and begin to address statelessness in the region, among others.
The group is also said to facilitating a dialogue on statelessness during the annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations.
Meanwhile, APRRN also unveiled its vision, first regional vision of its kind, for regional protection, developed in the two years since the previous consultation.
“It outlines principles to promote freedom from violence and abuse, access to essential services and livelihoods, legal protection, access to durable solutions, self-sufficiency and partnerships for a supportive operating environment,” reads APRRN website.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 12 million people worldwide are affected by statelessness.
Stateless individuals are distinct from refugees since they are not deemed to be the nationals of any state. While stateless people can enjoy human rights under international law, they often face barriers that prevent them from accessing their rights.
These include the right to establish a legal residence, travel, work in the formal economy, send children to school, access basic health services, purchase or own property, vote, and enjoy the protection and security of a country. They are also more vulnerable to gross and systematic violations of their human rights and crimes such as trafficking.