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2.8 Security measures in resettlement

General principles

UNHCR security policies and guidance emphasize a proactive approach to security management, where considerations about security are included from the earliest stages of planning at all levels, and particular attention is paid to early warning and analysis of changes in the environment. Management decisions on operational security are based on technical advice from security professionals to ensure an environment of acceptable risk for colleagues.

All systems and procedures for resettlement in UNHCR offices must ensure the safety and security of UNHCR colleagues, partners and displaced persons. The risk of resettlement-related security incidents, including, for example, violent acts or threats of self-injury on UNHCR premises, should be identified as part of the risk exercise and effectively managed through security policies, procedures and training.

All UNHCR colleagues are responsible for knowing and complying with security policies, directives, guidelines and procedures applicable to their duty station and area of mission travel. They should be aware of their capacity to influence their own safety through personal awareness and taking appropriate precautions. Moreover, they can enhance the security environment for themselves and others by behaving in a way that fosters goodwill and acceptance within the refugee community and by reporting information they believe may have an impact on security.

Refugees should be informed that they have a duty to comply with national laws and with measures taken for the maintenance of public order (Article 2 of the 1951 Convention). Any previous incident involving violent, threatening or otherwise inappropriate behaviour should be recorded in the individual’s file to allow security colleagues and the interviewer to anticipate security issues and take precautionary measures, as necessary. It is important to prevent the perception that violent or unlawful acts are rewarded with protection or assistance from UNHCR. To that end, UNHCR may decide not to submit a case for resettlement based on an individual’s participation in violent acts. Where a case has already been submitted, UNHCR will inform the resettlement country of any participation in violent acts.

Preventing security incidents through good communication

Insufficient community engagement and lack of clear information about resettlement can pose security risks to UNHCR. Refugees have the right to be informed about issues and decisions affecting their lives and their future, and communication is critical to achieving community acceptance of resettlement activities, while also helping to inform and manage expectations on an individual level, including with respect to the limited places available as well as possible extensive resettlement processing times.

UNHCR country offices conducting resettlement should strive to be open with communities about the availability and limits of this durable solution, referral channels in place, general case identification methodologies and UNHCR’s limited decision-making role. In addition, UNHCR should try to be frank and open about the broader political environment and other challenges that impact the availability of resettlement places. This can help alleviate perceptions of unfairness or arbitrariness and promote confidence in UNHCR’s efforts to deliver resettlement predictably and with integrity.

Security training and security awareness in resettlement

Resettlement colleagues, like all UNHCR colleagues, must complete mandatory security training BSAFE before commencing duties in an operation. In addition, security briefings by the Field Safety Adviser in the country on the specific threats and relevant security factors related to resettlement processing should be part of induction and ongoing training efforts in the operation.

It is also recommended to provide training to resettlement colleagues on techniques for effective communication to avoid security risks and diffuse security situations, including:

  • non-antagonistic interview techniques;
  • delivering bad news with clarity and sensitivity;
  • responding to threats;
  • diffusing anger;
  • responding to persons showing signs of serious distress;
  • responding to persons who are persons in situations of high distress, persons with psychosocial disabilities and persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • being transparent about policy changes and perceived inconsistencies in case handling.

See Unit 2.4 of the RSD Procedural Standards: Office Security, Unit 2.9 of the RSD Procedural Standards: Applicants with Mental Health Conditions or Intellectual Disabilities in UNHCR RSD Procedures and UNHCR – Working with Persons with Disabilities in Forced Displacement for further guidance.

Security considerations directly related to resettlement processing

Crowding inside or outside the office

Too many people gathered at the UNHCR for resettlement-related reasons can lead to security issues and should be avoided. In particular, large groups outside an office in an urban environment can be problematic in terms of protection risks and can result in restrictions on physical access to UNHCR premises and services. Reducing the risk of crowding can be achieved by:

  • Communication through different channels that enable refugees to obtain information and communicate with UNHCR without approaching the Office.
  • Scheduling that is informed by accurate calculations as to reception centre/ waiting room capacity, staff capacity and average interview time for a Resettlement Case of average size. In many operational contexts, flexibility is required to allow for technical, connectivity, staffing or other issues that may impact the schedule. Scheduling colleagues should leave a suitable number of empty slots in the daily schedule to accommodate individuals with urgent issues, specific needs or other unforeseen issues requiring immediate attention.

Security in and around interview rooms

In consultation with the Field Safety Adviser, guidelines should be developed for conducting individual counselling and interviews, including on:

  • The layout and furnishing of interview rooms. The space should permit easy unobstructed exit for UNHCR colleagues and be cleared of breakable objects or any items that could be used as a weapon, this includes cables and wires.
  • Daily checks to verify there is nothing in or near the interview room that may compromise the confidentiality of the interview. Clear provisions should be made on the confidential handling of video and/or audio recordings in line with UNHCR’s Data Protection Framework, where such recordings are made.
  • The movement of refugees from waiting areas to interview rooms and circumstances in which escorted access is required.
  • Procedures for alerting security personnel of potential security incidents in resettlement and to obtain prompt assistance, including the use of emergency panic buttons.
  • Procedures for reporting security incidents in the country office, regional bureau and UNHCR headquarters, as required.

See Unit 2.4 of the RSD Procedural Standards: Office Security for further guidance.

Security when conducting interviews in remote locations

The following additional recommendations should be considered when conducting interviews in remote areas or locations:

  • Consult security focal points about how to organize travel and make arrangements with local authorities for assistance, if needed and appropriate.
  • Conduct interviews discreetly so as not to attract undue attention.
  • Ensure ground transportation remains on stand-by at all times.
  • Maintain communication at all times between resettlement colleagues and security personnel.