News Stories, 21 January 2009
GENEVA, January 21 (UNHCR) – The Netherlands signed an agreement on Wednesday that will make it the first country to use UNHCR's internet-based Refworld as its main information tool in determining asylum claims.
"This memorandum of understanding is a recognition of the importance of country of origin information and the significance of sharing of information, which is fundamental to decision making," said Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller, who signed the MoU on behalf of UNHCR at a ceremony in Geneva.
Access to accurate, reliable and updated information is vital when trying to determine whether someone is a refugee, because a wrong decision based on unreliable information can have very serious consequences for the person concerned.
Refworld – an innovative online protection database developed by UNHCR – has a wealth of information related to conditions in the country where any particular asylum seeker originates from. It also contains tens of thousands of legal and policy documents that can help decision-makers, be they UNHCR staff round the world, national asylum officers, judges, lawyers and so on.
"For us, easy access – thanks to modern technology – good quality of the information available and cost efficiency were the main considerations" for the cooperation, said Peter Veld, general director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who signed the agreement for the Netherlands.
Refworld is updated daily. The state-of-the-art application was developed in-house by UNHCR's Electronic Publishing Unit and the Status Determination and Protection Information Section in the agency's Division of International Protection Services (DIPS).
Refworld includes multiple and advanced possibilities for browsing the collection of more than 108,000 documents by region and/or country, by publisher, by topic or keyword and by document type. In addition, it has a powerful full text search engine and advanced searching facilities.
"Refworld provides the kind of information most likely to be needed by those who are making protection-related decisions, such as refugee status determination, resettlement, voluntary repatriation and so on," said DIPS Director George Okoth-Obbo.
The MoU signed Wednesday, which includes financial support for Refworld over the next three years, confirms UNHCR as a trusted source of objective and reliable information on asylum issues.