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1.3 Tools and resources for determining refugee status under UNHCR’s mandate

Country of origin information (COI)

COI is information that is used in procedures for assessing claims to refugee status or other forms of international protection. COI supports interview preparation, helps a decision-maker establish the facts of a refugee claim and informs the assessment of the applicant’s fear of persecution. UNHCR supports the work of, a worldwide database run by the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD), containing information in multiple languages. UNHCR works closely with ACCORD to ensure that all countries of origin are adequately covered on the database. Noting the importance of using multiple sources of COI, UNHCR recommends as a common repository that provides reliable, balanced, accurate, current and traceable COI for decision-making. 

While the use of COI is important for consistent decision-making in both RSD and resettlement case processing, it does not necessarily feature in the RRF itself. There are exceptions, for example, where there is a direct reference in COI to a member of the Resettlement Case or another relevant individual, or where it is considered necessary for other reasons, including in the context of substantiating findings on exclusion or when a common view or assumption about a situation is contradicted by a reliable COI source.

In general, it is best practice to share a summary of relevant COI with resettlement countries in a separate background document.  

UNHCR country guidance

UNHCR issues country-specific policy guidance on certain countries of origin, in the form of Eligibility Guidelines and International Protection Considerations. Eligibility Guidelines and International Protection Considerations provide guidance on the application of the eligibility criteria in respect of specific profiles of asylum-seekers, on the basis of the assessed political, security and human rights situations, as well as the social, economic and humanitarian conditions in the country concerned. Such guidance aims to assist decision-makers, including UNHCR colleagues, government staff and private practitioners, in assessing the international protection needs of asylum-seekers. UNHCR’s Eligibility Guidelines and International Protection Considerations are published on Refworld.

Tools for the interpretation of the eligibility criteria

To support the interpretation and application of the refugee definition, and to ensure that fair and efficient procedures are in place for the purpose of RSD, UNHCR has issued a number of documents and tools that are also relevant for resettlement purposes, including:

UNHCR’s Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status

  • Provides comprehensive guidance on the interpretation of the 1951 Convention and inclusion criteria under Article 1 A (2).
  • Covers the cessation clauses under Article 1C (1) to (6) and the exclusion clauses under Article 1 D, E and F of the 1951 Convention.
  • Includes a series of legal positions on specific questions of international refugee law entitled Guidelines on International Protection to support the substantive analysis of refugee claims. These and other guidance to support interpretation of the inclusion criteria are also available on the dedicated page on RSD on Refworld.

UNHCR’s 2020 Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination Under UNHCR’s Mandate (RSD Procedural Standards)

  • Sets out the minimum procedural standards for individual RSD conducted by UNHCR under its mandate. 
  • Establishes core principles and standards that (i) ensure that all asylum-seekers applying for refugee status determination under UNHCR’s mandate benefit from accurate, timely and consistent decision-making and (ii) support capacity development of UNHCR RSD and protection colleagues and other stakeholders.
  • Provides detailed procedural guidelines for every stage of the Mandate RSD process, from the reception of asylum-seekers by UNHCR through to the final determination of the claim. Many of these guidelines are also relevant to resettlement processing.

UNHCR’s Refworld is a policy and law database to assist asylum decision-makers and all other stakeholders in the asylum process. It provides access to a collection of international and national legal instruments (international Conventions, national laws and regulations, etc.), case law from international and national courts and UNHCR policy guidance on all aspects of asylum decision-making. The site includes a public dedicated page on RSD.

The RSD Practitioners Platform (SharePoint 365 site) is a source for UNHCR colleagues, where advice and tools are provided on country guidance, operational procedures/standards, training products and legal advice amongst others. While the platform is geared primarily to RSD colleagues, it is available to all colleagues involved in individual case processing activities, including resettlement. UNHCR’s RSD Section intranet page also provides information about RSD, country guidance and COI. The DisasterReady platform is an external platform that hosts a number of learning resources related to the interpretation of the refugee criteria.