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1.4 UNHCR’s case processing modalities

Case processing modalities for refugee status determination

In accordance with UNHCR’s Strategic engagement with RSD (2015), operations are required to assess which RSD case processing modalities are most appropriate for their specific context. Different case processing modalities may be introduced for different population groups and profiles: Regular RSD, Simplified RSD, Accelerated RSD, Merged Registration – RSD and Merged RSD – Resettlement. These processing modalities and the intended contexts for their application are described in the Aide-Memoire & Glossary of case processing modalities, terms and concepts applicable to RSD under UNHCR’s Mandate, annexed to the RSD Procedural Standards, and summarized as follows: 

Regular RSD is a procedure where an Applicant’s claim is comprehensively examined on an individual basis without any form of simplified, accelerated and/or merged procedural steps.

Accelerated RSD refers to an RSD procedure which involves a substantive and individualized assessment of the refugee status claim, but with an acceleration or shortening applied to all or some timelines in the RSD process.  Accelerated RSD does not, on its own, imply a simplification of any aspect of the RSD procedure, or a reduction of procedural fairness guarantees. With the exception of shortened timeframes, all other elements of the RSD Procedural Standards are applicable.

Accelerated procedures are mainly applied in three main situations:

  1. Individuals with specific needs or manifestly in need of a protection intervention, for example when a person may be at immediate risk of refoulement;
  2. Indications of a claim being manifestly well-founded or a presumption of inclusion applies; or
  3. Indications of a claim being manifestly unfounded.

Simplified RSD refers to individual RSD where the interview or assessment writing or both are simplified in comparison to Regular RSD in order to achieve efficiency gains in case processing time. All elements of the RSD Procedural Standards are applicable.

Simplified RSD is mainly applied to population groups and profiles:

  • to whom a prima facie approach applies; 
  • with high recognition rates (such as populations/profiles where a presumption of inclusion can be applied) and a high prevalence of similar claims, which allows for focused interviewing and/or the use of templates with pre-populated legal analysis and/or COI, and 
  • with very low recognition rates and a high degree of similarity in claims, which allows for focused interviewing and/or the use of templates with pre-populated legal analysis and/or COI.

Merged procedures

To increase efficient use of resources, UNHCR Offices can under certain circumstances merge RSD with other procedural steps of the case processing continuum, notably registration or resettlement. 

The following applies to merged procedures:

  1. They should be nationality/ population group/ profile specific.
  2. They should only be used if there is a high presumption of inclusion.
  3. Decisions to reject should not be taken in a merged procedure. If indications come to light that may give cause for a possible rejection of the refugee claim, the case must be referred to the regular RSD process.
  4. The introduction of merged procedures, including SOPs for the specific merged procedures, requires prior approval by the relevant regional bureau, in consultation with the relevant entities in headquarters.

Merged Registration – RSD is a modality aiming to capture in one interview the i) biodata, specific needs and other information collected during a registration interview, and ii) information relating to the eligibility of the Applicant for international protection, with the aim of recognition of refugee status. This interview is conducted at the registration stage, effectively merging the registration and RSD steps of the process.

Decisions following a merged Registration-RSD interview should be reviewed by RSD colleagues or, in the absence of RSD colleagues, by senior registration colleagues who should preferably have been trained in RSD. 

Merged RSD – Resettlement is a case processing modality in which certain stages of the RSD and resettlement process are merged. This is most commonly conducted through one combined RSD and Resettlement Interview and the completion of a Resettlement Registration Form (RRF), rather than both an RSD Assessment Form and an RRF. 

The following general conditions apply to merged RSD-resettlement procedures: 

  1. A resettlement quota has been agreed with a resettlement State for a specific population group, and the decision to submit cases through merged RSD-Resettlement procedures endorsed by the State; 
  2. There are mechanisms in place to identify cases (a) most in need of resettlement and meeting related resettlement criteria, and (b) suitable for processing in Merged RSD – Resettlement processing.
  3. UNHCR colleagues conducting merged RSD-Resettlement procedures, including reviewers, have appropriate RSD and resettlement training and experience.

Even when the conditions for implementing this type of merged procedures are met, they should not be used for determining complex claims (including claims that are based on a more individualized profile), sensitive cases or claims raising credibility issues or exclusion triggers. As such, merged RSD – Resettlement procedures must include effective referral mechanisms for cases identified for processing through merged procedures but subsequently found not to be suitable for such processing. If appropriate, operations may establish case profiles and criteria for referral to regular RSD based on a local analysis of the populations of concern and the specific profiles therein.

Dedicated SOPs for merged RSD-Resettlement are required.  SOPs should include a well-developed identification methodology, clear referral mechanisms, procedural safeguards and appropriate supervision and oversight measures both at RSD and resettlement. SOPs for Merged RSD – Resettlement must be reviewed by the designated focal point(s) for RSD and resettlement in the relevant regional bureau.

Given that a referral for resettlement under merged processing entails a formal recognition of refugee status, the colleagues conducting merged RSD – Resettlement procedures, including reviewers, should have appropriate RSD and resettlement training and experience. The introduction of merged RSD – Resettlement procedures require prior approval by the relevant regional bureau and the relevant DIP entities (RSD Section, RCPS, Protection and National Security Section (PNSS)).