Planning and Preparing Registration and Identity Management Systems
© UNHCR/Roger Arnold
3.10 Setting up for mobile registration

Key messages

    • Registration outreach activities such as in detention, hospital or other place should be conducted by trained staff who are able to obtain information on specific needs as well as spot any protection related concerns which may not be directly expressed by the individual.
    • Larger-scale mobile registration is one way to ensure access to registration for a population of concern, and requires careful evaluation in light of the expected protection benefits, costs involved and alternatives available.
    • When considering mass mobile registration, a clearly defined continuous registration plan must be determined for the population.

What is mobile registration?

  • Mobile registration refers to a time-bound registration activity taking place outside the usual operational base, site or UNHCR Office. Its purpose is to facilitate access to UNHCR registration and protection activities for persons of concern who are unable to approach the Office or registration site. A mobile registration activity may be small scale, as in the case of registration outreach to persons of concern in detention, hospital, home visit, etc., or it may be larger scale, as in the case of mass intake of those who have disadvantaged access to the registration location. Depending on the context, large-scale mobile registration may be carried out in a dedicated temporary registration centre, or it could take a low-visibility, shelter-by-shelter approach.

    A mobile registration activity may also be conducted as a temporary measure to address a registration backlog, for example, by renting an additional building for a defined period in order to increase registration capacity.

When to do mobile registration

  • Mobile registration activities facilitate access to registration for individuals or groups who:

    → are not able to safely access the main registration site due to security issues, check points, protection risk, lack of travel documentation or authorization from local or national authorities;

    → are in detention, hospital or other facility or institution rendering them unable to move;

    → have specific needs or vulnerabilities impeding their capacity to travel;

    → live too far from the registration site, making the journey too expensive, long or otherwise onerous.

    Mobile registration is usually necessary for those individuals who are confined to their home, in detention or in hospital. In these contexts, registration staff should ideally be accompanied by protection staff in a multi-functional team. Registration staff who are not accompanied by protection colleagues should be well trained on how to obtain information on specific needs as well as how to spot any protection related concerns which may not be directly expressed by the individual. All such issues should be reported and referred for follow-up with protection staff. It is also important to ensure, to the extent possible, that confidentiality principles are maintained and that the registration interview is private. It is critical to remember that, in many cases, the registration interview may constitute the only contact between a person of concern and UNHCR staff for a long period.

    The question of whether or not to conduct larger-scale mobile registration requires careful evaluation in light of the expected protection benefits and the costs involved in terms of impact on other registration activities as well as the financial implications of additional staffing, material and logistical arrangements. Mobile registration is just one of the ways UNHCR can facilitate access to registration. Alternative options should also be considered, including providing transportation (e.g. coach) to and from the main registration site, paying for public transportation or conducting registration through an implementing partner. Some of the key considerations in such an evaluation include, inter alia:

    • What are the protection benefits of the activity? Mobile registration is conducted in order to meet challenges related to access. There should be core protection needs that can be addressed by registering the population.
    • What are the obstacles to approaching the main registration site? If access is impeded by conflict or climate-related issues, perhaps UNHCR staff are equally unable to travel to the location in question; if distance, cost or authorization- related, UNHCR may be better placed to do the traveling.
    • Does UNHCR have the capacity, resources, technology to do mobile registration? What would be the impact on other activities in-house, including the daily registration schedule at the main location? What would be the technological and resource requirements?
    • Is there a better alternative? Have the advantages and disadvantages of conducting mobile registration been weighed against the alternatives?
    • Is there cooperation from refugees, host community and national authorities? Support, authorization and buy-in from all stakeholders, national authorities, partners and refugees is critical, including ensuring permission to travel, access to detention locations, use of community facilities, etc. Also, for refugees outside of a camp context, ensure they agree with the mobile registration methodology, and that it does not, for example, unduly identify them as refuges and create protection risks for them.
    • Is there the required capacity from protection colleagues : how will protection issues identified during mobile registration be followed up and addressed? In an RSD context, the additional population registered by mobile registration exercise will increase the RSD workload. The impact on protection and other functional units should be anticipated and built into the longer term planning in relation to the concerned population.
    • What is the continuous registration plan for this population? The next steps after initial mobile registration need to be clearly defined:
      • How will continuous registration activities be conducted (add-ons, family composition change, contact information change, death, departures, etc.)? If additional staff are engaged to conduct the initial mobile registration, will regular registration staff have the capacity to assume the continuous registration workload associated with that population?
      • Mobile registration exercises that significantly increase the number of people registered per day create an equally significant number of documents which will expire at the same time (potentially requiring a mass renewal exercise), unless the expiry dates are staggered so that renewal activities can be spread out and completed over a period of time.

Preparing for a large mobile registration mission

  • A large mobile registration activity requires significant preparation, including:

    → identifying those in need of mobile registration;

    → identifying the site and resource requirements to carry out mobile registration;

    → informing the population;

    → scheduling registration appointments, and

    → adapting existing SOPs to the mobile exercise.

  • Identify those in need of Mobile Registration

    When planning an initial registration, those admissible for the mobile registration exercise should be defined according to the purpose of the exercise, and quantified based on the triangulation of information available: lists compiled by the concerned refugee community, partial population fixing, refugee lists by the local administration and other sources. It is important to take a flexible and inclusive approach to quantifying the number of people expected to be registered: reliance on one source of information (e.g. community lists) is to be avoided; the source may not be fully accurate, it may expose the exercise to fraud and it risks perpetuating the exclusion of already marginalized individuals. In some offline environments, a mobile BIMS server may be justified in order to avoid duplicate registrations and the need for later adjudication (see fraud risk below). For verification exercises, a list of individuals expected to be verified during the mobile exercise should be identified from ProGres.

  • Identify site and related resources requirements

    An appropriate site should be accessible to all, including those with specific needs, and meet the required security standards. Being a temporary activity, it is recommended to use existing infrastructure for mobile registration (e.g. community centres, partner premises), or if necessary, a temporary infrastructure, such as a rub hall tent. The capacity of the site should be appropriate to the number of individuals expected to be eligible for the mobile registration activity, with sufficient space for the required work stations, proper lighting, electricity supply (and backup generator) as well as water and sanitation facilities. Once a site is selected and the budget confirmed, the logistical and administrative arrangements should be organized. This includes procuring and dispatching equipment, organizing transport, engaging ground security and recruiting additional temporary staff, if necessary, and training them. Security and accommodation for staff after hours should also be assured. See the below checklist for IT hardware and software, telecommunications and registration materials to consider for both online and offline environments.

  • Prepare information campaign, identify scheduling methodology and adapt registration SOPs

    The population targeted by mobile registration must be informed about the activity through an information campaign, which should be planned in consultation with a diversity of individuals or groups within the target population. The campaign should provide sufficient opportunity for people to ask questions, flag problems and propose solutions. A suitable scheduling methodology should be identified, depending on the operational context and scale of the activity. Mobile registration SOPs should be based on the regular registration SOPs in place at the main site, adapted as necessary to the exigencies of the exercise.

Risks associated with mobile registration

  • Lack of oversight, procedural safeguards and operational support: A mobile team has less direct support from supervisors and administration, and limited backstopping from protection colleagues. Procedural safeguards such as escalation of decisions, consultation, and referral of individuals to protection may not be feasible, and the team may have to take their own decision for issues that would have been otherwise decided at a higher level or referred to other services. Decisions for issues that are not covered by SOPs should be well-documented in the interests of integrity, consistency and better follow-up. In larger mobile registration exercises, there must be some representation on site from protection services in order to assess the protection or specific needs identified during the mission. Sufficient materials as well as backup power supply should be in place to avoid interruptions in services which can erode already reduced working hours (taking into account transportation of staff and set up time).

    Fraud: The use of proGres v4 and BIMS in mobile registration mitigate mitigate the fraud risk, due to online access to biographical and biometric data. As such, where possible, the mobile exercise should be conducted where there is adequate connectivity. In an offline environment, and depending on the context (for example, if assistance is to be distributed at the same time, if there is known to be movement of refuges between different sites or of there are certain factors elevating the fraud risk), the use of a field server may be advisable.

    Inconsistency among sites: If multiple mobile teams are at work simultaneously in different locations, extra coordination efforts need to be made in ensuring the harmonization of procedures and consistency of data capture.

    Data protection: In the event of equipment theft or breakage, the captured data may be lost. In off-line environments, regular back-up and keeping the backed-up data on separate media are the only means to safeguard the data while on the road. Double encrypting the laptop that serves as the server is also important. Other hard copy documentation can also be more vulnerable to loss or damage.

    Here is a Checklist for the roll-out of mobile registration mission: