The travel routes of asylum seekers today may involve transit through one or more countries to access adequate protection and livelihood opportunities. This is particularly the case in the Asia–Pacific, where there is low uptake of the Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. In addition, many countries are considered ‘developing’ countries, lacking adequate infrastructure, accessible social services including health care and education, and with only limited regulatory and administrative safeguards, while others continue to experience political instability.

Image: Signatory Asia-Pacific countries of the Refugee Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol

Image: Signatory Asia-Pacific countries of the Refugee Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol

Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the major transit countries in Southeast Asia, as people move from conflicts in the Middle East and Asia towards Australia and New Zealand.

Australia and New Zealand, by virtue of their ability to provide both protection and livelihood opportunities, are considered desirable destination countries. Located between them and the countries of origin for refugees and people seeking asylum, there are limited alternatives offering adequate protection and livelihood opportunities. The result is journeys that can involve complex travel through multiple countries and regions.

With a rise in measures in the region to curb refugee flows, many of those seeking protection end up stranded in transit countries and refugee camps on the way to their desired destination.

Click here for more information on global measures to curb refugee flows.

In 2015 there was a high number of maritime movements between countries in Southeast Asia. Approximately 33,600 people fled across the sea, resulting in an estimated 370 deaths, primarily from starvation, dehydration, disease and abuse. This contrasts with the cause of death of drowning in other regions with shorter sea routes and stronger rescue-at-sea protocols, such as on the Mediterranean. Of the 33,600, 32,600 travelled through the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, while 700 went across the Straits of Malacca and just under 300 were intercepted on the way to Australia and New Zealand.

Boats departing from Bangladesh and Myanmar carried mostly Rohingyan passengers and were heading for Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. The remaining boats heading to Australia departed from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam and were carrying passengers from Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Click below for profiles of key transit countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

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Last updated March 2017.