Identification phase

For some refugees, voluntary repatriation will be a possible durable solution; for others, there may be a chance to integrate locally in their country of asylum. For others again, resettlement is the only possible durable solution or means to ensure protection. The efficient and transparent identification of refugees potentially in need of resettlement is essential to ensure continuous refugee protection. An effective and consistent identification process is also critical to ensuring that refugees are provided fair access to resettlement processing. In addition, it can decrease the potential for the fraudulent use of the resettlement system, or any perceptions of arbitrariness in resettlement decision-making. 

Properly identifying refugees who may be in need of resettlement is a crucial and challenging aspect of the resettlement process. It requires detailed knowledge of the refugee population, their protection risks and specific needs, as well as a comprehensive assessment of the prospects for this, i.e. resettlement versus other durable solutions.

To be submitted for resettlement, individuals or families must:

  • meet the preconditions for resettlement consideration; and
  • fall under one or more of UNHCR’s resettlement submission categories.

The preconditions for resettlement consideration are the following:

  • the applicant is determined to be a refugee by UNHCR; and
  • the prospects for all durable solutions were assessed, and resettlement is identified as the most appropriate solution.

However, in exceptional circumstances, resettlement is considered for non-refugee stateless persons for whom resettlement is considered the most appropriate durable solution, and for certain non-refugee dependent family members so as to retain family unity.

There are seven resettlement submission categories. In many cases, resettlement submission categories may overlap, and submissions are made under both a primary and secondary category. The seven categories include:

  • LEGAL AND/OR PHYSICAL PROTECTION NEEDS of the refugee in the country of refuge (this includes a threat of 'refoulement' (forced return) to their country of origin);
  • SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND/OR TORTURE, in particular where repatriation or conditions of asylum could result in further traumatization and/or heightened risk, or where appropriate treatment is not available;
  • MEDICAL NEEDS, in particular, life-saving treatment unavailable in the country of refuge;
  • WOMEN AND GIRLS AT RISK who have protection problems particular to their gender;
  • FAMILY REUNIFICATION, when resettlement is the only means to reunite refugee family members who, owing to refugee flight or displacement, are separated by borders or entire continents;
  • CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS AT RISK, where a Best Interests Determination (BID) supports resettlement;
  • LACK OF FORESEEABLE ALTERNATIVE DURABLE SOLUTIONS, which generally is relevant only when other solutions are not possible in the foreseeable future; when resettlement can be used strategically; and/or when it can open possibilities for comprehensive solutions.

The UNHCR Resettlement Handbook provides detailed guidance on the identification of refugees in need of resettlement and the requirements for submission under the resettlement submission categories outlined above.

The identification of refugees potentially in need of resettlement is part of an on-going, active and collaborative effort of UNHCR staff and its NGO partners.

UNHCR has developed various tools to improve the identification of vulnerable individuals for whom resettlement is the most appropriate form of protection, as well as the identification of populations in need of resettlement as a durable solution. Such tools include, for example, the proGres registration database and the Heightened Risk Identification Tool (HRIT).

UNHCR field offices will often have well-established relationships with NGOs to help facilitate counselling and assistance to refugees who may be eligible for resettlement. In addition, to help refugees make free and informed decisions, UNHCR, with the support of IOM and partner NGOs, provide information on durable solutions through targeted sessions as well as mobile counselling, which has proven successful, for example, in camps in Thailand and Nepal.

In some contexts, NGOs collaborate with UNHCR to help identify and refer cases potentially in need of resettlement. Operating as an affiliate workforce, NGOs also assist by providing additional field office staff in the early assessment of resettlement needs, as well as in the preparation of case submissions for resettlement.

When a refugee is identified as potentially eligible for resettlement, UNHCR staff (and, when applicable, the affiliate NGO workforce) conduct a resettlement assessment interview. If a resettlement need is confirmed, a Resettlement Registration Form (RRF) is prepared. The RRF serves as a primary tool at UNHCR’s disposal to represent the needs of individual refugees to a resettlement country. The resettlement interview is conducted by UNHCR or by affiliate NGO staff deployed to support UNHCR operations. The largest partnership of this type is the UNHCR-ICMC Deployment Scheme, within which ICMC maintains a roster of approximately 300 professionals to support resettlement activities in UNHCR field offices.

While resettlement identification is often performed on an individual basis, identifying groups in need of resettlement supplements individual identification. The group may be defined by situational context (e.g. all persons in a camp) and/ or specific characteristics, such as nationality, refugee claim, or their political, ethnic, or religious background, which may distinguish them from other refugees present in the country.

UNHCR publishes an overview of global resettlement needs and priorities every year in the Projected Global Resettlement Needs report. This publication raises awareness of populations identified to be in need of resettlement, and serves as the main reference tool for dialogue on resettlement needs, priority-setting and the selection of refugees for resettlement by resettlement States.

Pictures: © UNHCR/P. Moore/February 2011; © UNHCR/P. Ghimire/August 2012



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