Communicating with Communities about Registration
© UNHCR/Aristophane Nagargoune
4.4 Communication in the context of continuous registration

In line with UNHCR’s policy on Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD), Offices should ensure that women, men, girls and boys from all backgrounds have ongoing access to timely, accurate and relevant information on registration, in a format that is appropriate and accessible to all groups within a community.

Refugees and asylum seekers should also be regularly consulted on registration issues and invited to give feedback, including comments, suggestions and complaints. Maintaining a plurality of consultation and feedback channels that are tailored to the operational context is a core aspect of an AGD and people-centred approach, enabling people to participate in decisions that affect their lives as well as better understand their rights, obligations and entitlements.

Meeting ongoing information needs

  • UNHCR must continually work to understand the information and communication needs of communities within a population of concern. Find out what they want to know and the channels through which they want to share and receive information. Obtaining this data may be achieved through activities like focus group discussions (FGD) and other interactions with individuals from different refugee communities (outreach volunteers, refugee committee members and others), individual counselling or through monitoring discussions on social media, for example. In addition, other techniques for gathering this kind of information include adding a short questionnaire onto initial and continuous registration interviews, or by conducting surveys or inteviews9 – whether online, by telephone, or through outreach activities. As such, a participatory and inclusive approach to identifying information needs and appropriate communication channels is an inexpensive and resource-light activity that all Offices should be in a position to realize through existing processes and activities. This approach strengthens trust and accountability between stakeholders and ensures that the information shared responds directly to the information needs of refugees and asylum-seekers.

    While certain information needs vary from community to community, the following issues are relevant in all continuous registration contexts and must be the subject of ongoing communication, dialogue and feedback, without which the related processes are unlikely to be fully understood or well-utilized:

    • New processes such as biometric enrolment or the introduction of new documentation;
    • Reminders about ongoing processes like document renewal, registration of births, as well as certain rights, entitlements or obligations related to registration.
    • Procedural or operational changes including change in procedures, change in operational partner, changes in admissibility to registration-related activities
    • Changes in policies and laws of the host country related to registration, including any changes to the role of the State or UNHCR in this carrying out this function.
    • New opportunities, for example, to access assistance or services associated with registration.


    Related information materials should be produced and maintained by UNHCR on a continuing basis. Many people are likely to assume that out-dated web pages and worn-out or damaged posters contain information that is itself out of date, even if this is not necessarily the case. The Registration and Identity Management Officer should also ensure that all UNHCR staff and partners are aware of continuous registration messages, in the event they are asked registration-related questions in the course of their own work.

    For an example of an information and communication needs assessment, conducted via survey.

    Assessing Information and Communication Needs, a booklet published by Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities (CDAC).

Maintaining effective feedback mechanisms

  • While feedback collected on an ad hoc basis through day-to-day interactions is important for resolving individual issues encountered, the absence of a systematic approach means many refugees and asylum-seekers may not be aware that they can lodge a complaint, communicate an issue or provide feedback. Furthermore, if they do submit feedback, they will not know whether it has been received and whether any response or corrective action could be expected.

    Confidential feedback mechanisms10 should be established and maintained in each operation and their related procedures explained in different formats. To be accessible, feedback mechanisms need to have multiple communication channels tailored to the different needs and capacities of persons of concern. To have an impact, Offices need to identify and ensure the resources required to record, process and respond to feedback. In particular, SOPs should indicate the different pathways for handling feedback, such as:

    • what corrective action to take;
    • what information to provide in the case of certain questions or problems;
    • when to directly refer individuals to a particular service, UNHCR functional unit or government entity; and
    • how to simply log feedback and input where no further action is required.

    Offices are also encouraged to record additional information such as language, gender and age for better disaggregation and analysis of feedback. This data should be analyzed to inform the registration strategy and other planning activities as appropriate.

    10 See UNHCR Innovation’s 10 steps to setting up a feedback mechanism

Addressing barriers to communication with communities

  • Poor communication between UNHCR and the population of concern

    Inadequate communication, follow-up and responsiveness on the part of UNHCR leads to higher levels of misinformation, mistrust and misunderstanding about registration within the population. Information gaps of this nature may be a result of:

    • Insufficient communication capacity, for example, due to lack of staffing resources to produce and maintain quality information products, respond to feedback, manage hotlines, monitor online forums, attend regular meetings and be present in the community;
    • Ineffective or inappropriate communication channels, for example, due to ineffective partnerships with refugee outreach workers and other community interlocutors who would liaise between UNHCR and their respective communities, insufficient consultation on trusted channels of communication, or insufficient diversity of channels and formats used;
    • Poor messaging, for example, unclear, single format or incorrect information, or inadequate action taken to address misinformation;


    It is important to be willing to phase out communication channels that are not, or no longer, suited to the operational context and to experiment with innovative approaches that match operational capacity and are acceptable to the communication needs, capacities and preferences of the target population.

  • Communication infrastructure, cost and other factors

    Digital forms of communication may be inaccessible to a significant proportion of the refugee population, whether due to access charges, network coverage, regulatory restrictions, power supply or other barriers. When considering such forms of communication with communities, it is important to first assess the ‘digital divide’ across the refugee population, and, if appropriate, identify trusted and inexpensive digital channels while ensuring that alternative approaches are used for those unlikely to be reached through such means.  For more on ensuring an inclusive information and communication ‘ecosystem’, see here.

  • Information barriers not fully understood or addressed

    In every context, individuals will have differing communication preferences, depending on a range of factors including literacy, disability and education level. It is therefore important to use accessible and multiple formats, including written, oral, pictorial and ‘easy to read’.11 For example, individuals with a visual impairment will rely largely on oral information, while individuals with a hearing impairment will rely largely on written/ pictorial information. Low literacy communities or those who use a minority language may rely on pictorial information. Providing information in multiple and accessible formats benefits not only persons with disabilities but all individuals within a population, due to the diversity of capacities and preferences for processing information.

    Other hard to reach groups may include sections of the population who are socially or culturally isolated for reasons associated with age, social or work responsibilities, location or other factor. More generally, it can be hard to reach people who are preoccupied with the more pressing challenges of meeting basic needs, looking for work, supporting children at school and so forth, which can themselves become barriers to engaging with the registration process, particularly where individuals do not see any real benefit in keeping their registration up to date. Such barriers are not always concrete or specific but rather structural and cumulative in nature, and reflect the multitude of challenges that individuals can face living as refugees in a country of asylum. Consult protection colleagues to develop community-based approaches to reach out to individuals and groups who are disengaged from registration activities.

    11 ‘Easy to read’ information uses clear and easy to understand messages supported with pictures. For an example of ‘easy to read’ format.

Monitoring communication activities over time

  • Registration staff are encouraged to monitor the effectiveness of existing communication channels. General indicators of effective communication might include the level of understanding in different communities on registration issues, the extent to which the Office responds to registration challenges expressed by individuals and the overall levels of trust, engagement and participation in registration activities and their planning.