UNHCR launches updated version of key protection tool, Refworld

News Stories, 17 April 2013

© UNHCR/EPU
The new Refworld has been designed for use on multiple devices

GENEVA, April 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Wednesday launched a new and improved version of Refworld, a widely used online protection and research tool that helps those who have to decide on refugee and statelessness status.

Refworld 2013 (http://www.refworld.org) contains a vast collection of reports relating to situations in countries of origin, policy papers, case law and other documents relating to international and national legal frameworks. The documents have been carefully selected from and with UNHCR field offices, governments, international, regional and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and judicial bodies.

The service is free of charge and provides the crucial country of origin and legal information that UNHCR staff, government officials and judges need to decide whether an asylum-seeker is a refugee. To be recognized as a refugee, it has to be accepted that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution and cannot or will not return home because of that fear.

UNHCR Director of International Protection Volker Türk said Refworld 2013 was an improved version on the existing model, which was one of the most reliable and comprehensive websites in its field. "Refworld 2013 is more intuitive, looks better, can handle non-Roman script search terms and has improved search options. I have tried it myself and can assure you that finding the information you are looking for has become much easier," he said.

"Without proper procedures, in which reliable country of origin information is available and well-used, people who need international refugee protection may not be able to access it," Türk said, referring to the process of refugee status determination or asylum procedures. "Therefore, refugees and the stateless are the people who ultimately benefit from Refworld's improved capacity to find relevant protection information faster."

Refworld's unparalleled collection of protection information has been developed over more than two decades by UNHCR's Electronic Publishing Unit and the Division of International Protection. It initially appeared in CD-ROM and DVD formats and in 2007 went online.

A powerful and easy-to-use web application, it has been developed to meet the highest standards and best practices in online information management. It includes improved possibilities for browsing the collection of more than 167,000 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 search facilities, including a thesaurus which allows for the inclusion of variations of search terms.

Refworld is updated daily and includes thematic pages on topics of importance to UNHCR such as refugee status determination, statelessness, mixed migration, sexual orientation and gender identity, and people trafficking.

It enhances UNHCR's international protection mandate by making protection information available to everyone. UNHCR intends to develop different language versions of Refworld, starting with a Russian version later this year.