Emergency registration
© UNHCR/Adam Dean
6.3 Organizing movement

Depending on the emergency context, UNHCR may be involved in the movement of persons of concern from border areas to a registration site further away. Movement support should be provided when the population does not have the means to access the registration location that has been set up for them, and/or where protection risks associated with traveling in insecure or militarized areas (e.g. passing check points) can be mitigated in this way. Whenever possible, UNHCR should work with partners on transportation, typically with the local authorities and/or IOM. Generally, persons of concern should be transported in buses. The destination location may be a transit centre, registration site or an existing refugee camp. Less often, transportation may be facilitated in urban and informal settlement contexts to help new arrivals reach a registration location. In parallel with organizing transportation, an information campaign should be conducted to share critical information on this activity, including:

    • The destination: If the first destination is a transit centre (see ‘Transit centres’ below), persons of concern must be clearly informed that this is the case, together with other relevant information such as sleeping arrangements, food provision and when and where subsequent registration interviews and assistance distribution will occur.

    • How and when people can access transportation, and who is providing the service;

    • The transportation schedule, including access to prioritized boarding for persons with specific needs;

    • The registration schedule: usually, interviews can be scheduled according to the wristband or token issued to individuals to organize their transportation. Persons with specific needs are to be prioritized at all stages of the process;

    • Key messages about voluntariness, non-discrimination, services being free of charge and the protection and assistance benefits of registering.

Preparing organized movement

  • The Identity Management and Registration Officer may have a complex coordination role with regards to the movement of people towards a registration site. He or she must ensure all the parties – refugees, government authorities, colleagues and partners, are kept informed at each step so that the movement goes as smoothly as possible. Coordination tasks may include:

    • Ensuring transportation arrangements are in place: The Identity Management and Registration Officer should liaise and ensure good communication between UNHCR and the relevant government authorities and partners (IOM if present) on arranging transportation. Where UNHCR is leading movement activities, the Identity Management and Registration Officer should coordinate with Supply and Logistics focal points to ensure arrangements are in place, including the hiring of enough buses and trucks.

    • Ensuring all stakeholders are informed: All relevant host country authorities, military and/or security personnel (as appropriate), as well as those managing the destination points should be well informed of the movement activities.

    • Ensuring persons of concern understand the movement schedule and destination points: The assistance of community leaders (as well as partners) should be sought to help communicate important information about the movement, and to help organize passenger boarding on the day, including identifying groups or individuals in need of urgent medical assistance or other specific needs justifying prioritized boarding.

    • Coordinating the movement schedule with the registration schedule at the destination location: The rate of movement of those arriving at the transit centre must be aligned with and adjusted according to the rate of movement of those departing the transit centre and accessing registration. Regular status updates between staff at the various points of departure and arrival are necessary to avoid problems related to over-crowding.

    • Planning a clear process to facilitate boarding procedures and help reduce crowd pressures. Individuals identified with urgent specific needs should be physically able to pass ahead of others to board first. They should be accompanied by a responsible attendant (usually a relative). Meeting points should be established to prevent separation of family members not traveling with persons with specific needs.

Conduct group pre-registration ahead of organized movement

  • Depending on the time pressure, the Identity Management and Registration Officer may establish either a simple fixing process or, preferably, set up a pre-registration process ahead of organized movement. Group pre-registration facilitates proper movement planning, identifies people with urgent medical needs and provides initial population figures. It also furnishes refugees with a unique identifying number and token, wristband or other document that serves as a boarding pass and can also be used for scheduling interviews and provision of assistance. Persons with urgent specific needs may, in consultation with protection staff, be issued with a different token or referral slip for immediate referral to a health partner or other intervention. See Module 5.1. for general standards for pre-registration.


  • A simple pre-registration process may include the following steps:

    • Basic screening (by host government authorities, jointly conducted with UNHCR, or UNHCR alone if necessary)

      • Security check (e.g. for weapons)
      • Depending on context, nationality screening
      • Depending on context, screening for fighters (this should not be done by UNHCR)
    • Data collection (by UNHCR or jointly with host government authorities)

      • Group pre-registration data (see 6.5) is recorded on a control sheet or RApp, including urgent specific needs
      • A family photograph is taken
      • A token with unique numeric identifier is issued to each group representative
      • A wristband is provided to each individual (for visual tracking of who has been pre-registered);
    • A protection desk should be in place to receive persons with urgent specific or protection needs identified during screening or data collection.

  • Upon departure of the vehicles or immediately upon arrival at the destination point (i.e. transit facility or registration location), colleagues at these destination point should be informed of the number of households, sex/age breakdown and those households identified as having members with urgent specific needs. In the case of paper-based control sheets, DIRS stockpile control sheets contain three carbon-copies. One copy is to be retained by UNHCR, another copy is to be provided to the partner responsible for the vehicle manifest and the third copy goes to the receiving partner. In the case of electronic pre-registration, using RApp, a report of active reception cases filtered by vehicle number or other identifying number can be generated and provided electronically to the receiving partner.

    Roles and responsibilities for the filing and secure storage of control sheets/manifests should be assigned by the Supervisor in charge of the transportation. The period of retention should be determined in consultation with protection colleagues, according to the operational context.

Transit centres

  • Transit centres are temporary shelters for new arrivals and their belongings, typically built on land allocated by the government. Depending on the context, a transit centre may be a stand-alone site between the departure point and a refugee camp, or it may share its location with the reception/ registration site itself. The transit centre functions to provide short-term temporary accommodation before people are registered and assigned shelter materials, or before their shelter is set up. Transit centres should provide adequate protection, water and sanitation, hygiene, health services and nutrition for a short period (2-5 days) pending transfer to a more suitable, safe and longer-term settlement.

    It may be the case that transit and registration centres are being set up at the same time as refugee camps are being established or expanded to accommodate new arrivals. The Identity Management and Registration Officer must work closely with camp coordination and camp management colleagues to determine the daily throughput for registration, in order to be able to accommodate the newly registered families in the camp. It may also be necessary to temporarily upscale the transit centre or temporary accommodation in order to meet the daily expected throughput for registration.