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4.3 The resettlement Needs Assessment and Initial Review

All individuals identified and referred for resettlement consideration undergo a Needs Assessment and Initial Review, according to SOPs. This determines whether the case will proceed to Resettlement Interview.

The Needs Assessment is intended to establish whether individuals are willing to be resettled and to conduct a preliminary screening of the available information to decide if a case may be suitable for a Resettlement Interview. It also represents an important integrity safeguard and promotes consistency in the resettlement process. A strong Needs Assessment results in a more efficient use of time and resources by helping to ensure that only individuals assessed as being suitable for resettlement proceed to Resettlement Interview.

Depending on SOPs, the Needs Assessment may be conducted in person, by telephone, or solely by a review of the file and information in the Referral. In general, it is preferable to conduct the Needs Assessment in-person in order to fully verify family composition at this stage. SOPs may then specify situations in which a Needs Assessment may be completed remotely due to physical, economic or other barriers or protection risks associated with access. The Interviews entity in proGres can be used to record a Needs Assessment interview, according to SOPs.

To ensure accountability and oversight regarding the prioritization of cases and decision-making in resettlement, it is best practice to create a Resettlement Case in proGres at the Needs Assessment stage, regardless of whether the case continues to the end of the resettlement process, except in the case of individuals who are already members of an active Resettlement Case or have previously been deprioritised for consideration or submission.

It is recommended to record in the Needs Assessment if an individual cannot be contacted after multiple attempts, or if an individual is not willing to be considered for resettlement. This practice helps to avoid unnecessary communications from UNHCR to the same person(s).

The Needs Assessment should normally be completed within two weeks of receipt of the Referral.

Steps to complete the Needs Assessment

The Needs Assessment includes the following steps:

  • The purpose and process of the Needs Assessment is explained to all case/family members and expectations about resettlement are discussed and managed.
  • Initial willingness of all family members to be resettled is established, with preliminary counselling to manage expectations. Willingness should be reconfirmed throughout resettlement processing.
  • Determine Resettlement Case composition, including linked cases, and assign the Principal Applicant. Family relationships, composition and biodata should be verified, and additional registration data should be collected to fill any information gaps, as necessary. All individuals in the Registration Group can be included or only some members, depending on the referral and other considerations. Although it is exceptionally permitted to add individuals from a different Registration Group to the Resettlement Case, the reasons why Case members are not all registered in the same group must be clearly explained in the Comments field and carefully reviewed. Case composition may be changed or confirmed during resettlement processing. See below Considerations on Resettlement Case composition.
  • Determine if sufficient documentation/ information is available to conduct the Needs Assessment, either with or without a pre-screening interview. If not, the necessary action should be taken to obtain additional documents or referrals as required (e.g. Medical Assessment Form, Best Interests Procedure). In addition, all support documentation should be sent for translation before the Resettlement Interview to ensure any inconsistencies are duly identified and addressed. See below Required documentation, processes or reviews.
  • Identify any inconsistencies in proGres and/or supporting documents/ other sources of information and record the information in proGres for appropriate follow-up and resolution, according to SOPs. See 2.6 Fraud and misconduct.
  • Review Legal Status of each Resettlement Case member in proGres (usually refugee or asylum seeker, depending on case processing modality).
  • Assess suitability for resettlement processing, according to SOPs. Relevant issues in this regard include, for example, polygamy, child marriage and/or incomplete family composition. An active application for a complementary pathway for admission to a third country/ family reunification application may also indicate unsuitability for resettlement (see 3.8 Restoring family unity in the case of an active family reunification application). Potential eligibility or inadmissibility concerns that should be addressed through an in-depth interview before proceeding to Resettlement Interview should be highlighted in proGres for the attention of the colleague conducting the Initial Review.
  • Review family links in the country of asylum and other countries, indicate possible eligibility for family reunification under national procedures in the case of close family in another country. See 3.8 Restoring family unity. Record linked cases in proGres, according to SOPs.
  • Complete the Needs Assessment in proGres as Recommended/ Not Recommended, providing reasons. If relevant, record a possible submission category and/or country of submission.
  • Review the Processing Priority, then move the case to the next process step (Initial Review).

Considerations on Resettlement Case composition 

Family unity is a fundamental principle of international law. Maintaining and facilitating family unity of refugees promotes their physical care, protection and emotional well-being. The principle of family unity is a key consideration throughout resettlement processing, and UNHCR works to ensure that family members are considered and resettled together, when this is their common wish. See 3.1 Overarching principles in resettlement: Age, gender and diversity and family unity for considerations on family membership.

Dependent children, including unaccompanied and separated children in the care of an adult, are included in the Resettlement Case of the parent/caregiver, unless the best interests of the child determine otherwise. In the case of married children, see 3.4 Women and Girls at Risk

Dependent adults, including a spouse or partner, adult children and other dependent adults should generally be processed in the same Resettlement Case. If a resettlement State requires a separate RRF (e.g. for dependent adult children above a certain age) or if there would be specific protection risks arising from inclusion in the same Resettlement Case (e.g. for LGBTIQ+ partners in some contexts), the separated Resettlement Cases should be linked. See the blue box below and 4.6 Completing the Resettlement Registration Form (RRF). Note that polygamous spouses/families are not usually recommended for resettlement (see 3.4 Women and Girls at Risk).

Dependent non-refugee spouses, partners and children (usually registered with the individual legal status “Others of Concern” in the Registration Group) should be included in the Resettlement Case to preserve family unity, including dependents who are nationals of the country of asylum where the Principal Applicant is registered. A detailed assessment of available documents and the personal circumstances of the non-refugee spouse, partner (including same-gender partner) or family member must be conducted to establish dependency and to advocate for inclusion in the Resettlement Case (see 3.1 Overarching principles in resettlement: Age, gender and diversity and family unity). The agreement of the resettlement State in the case of non-refugee family members may be required; some States may initiate family reunification procedures in parallel to resettlement processing to facilitate the departure of all family members at the same time.

Exceptions to the general rule to include all dependent individuals in one Resettlement Case include situations where:

  • a resettlement State requires separate (linked) Resettlement Cases, or
  • specific protection considerations warrant separate (linked) submissions, e.g. LGBTIQ+ individuals and their partner/family in some contexts: see Interviewing LGBTIQ+ refugees in 4.4 The Resettlement Interview.

Family members living in the same household who have been separated into linked cases to meet resettlement State requirements or protection needs must be cross-referenced in the respective RRFs and considered together by the resettlement State. See Preparing the RRF.

Required documentation, processes or reviews

Medical documentation

Individuals to be submitted for resettlement under the Medical needs category must be accompanied by a Medical Assessment Form (MAF) completed by a medical physician or healthcare facility. The MAF helps UNHCR assess whether the individual should be prioritized for resettlement under the Medical Needs category and, if so, determine the related processing and submission priority. As such, the Needs Assessment stage should ensure:

  • the individual has been referred by a medical partner and a MAF has been duly completed, or
  •  the individual, not having the required documentation, is referred to an independent and qualified medical professional or health facility for assessment and completion of the MAF. Clinicians can refer to the Medical Assessment Form (MAF) – Guidance Notes. Medically qualified UNHCR personnel should not, in general, complete the MAF.

Attention should be paid to the expiration date of the MAF, which can be difficult to update in some operational contexts.

Where possible, health conditions and disabilities that are not life-threatening should be documented in a medical report, even if the case is recommended for consideration under submission categories other than the Medical needs category. This helps ensure that appropriate reception, treatment and support can, if requested, be made available upon arrival in a resettlement country.

Child protection processes

Unaccompanied or separated children or other children at risk may need a Best Interests Assessment (BIA) or Best Interests Determination (BID) to decide whether resettlement is in their best interests. In addition, where it is known ahead of time to which country a case would be submitted, specific resettlement country requirements also determine whether a BIA or BID is necessary.  A BIA or BID should be conducted before a child is scheduled for Resettlement Interview, according to SOPs. As such, the Needs Assessment should ensure an unaccompanied child, separated child, or child otherwise at risk:

  • has already undergone a BIA or BID, as required (e.g. when referred from child protection colleagues or partner), or
  • not having undergone a BIA or BID, is referred, as required, to the appropriate colleague or partner.

In addition, a child can be referred for BIA or BID at any time in the resettlement process, as issues arise that necessitate a consideration or reconsideration of the child’s best interests. A BIA can be undertaken by trained resettlement colleagues, while a BID is conducted by child protection specialists. See 3.5 Children and Adolescents at Risk for guidance on conducting BIA and BID in alignment with UNHCR’s Best Interests Procedure Guidelines (BIP).

Personal documents

Copies of personal documents, where available, may be necessary to collect during the Needs Assessment for further analysis of eligibility and admissibility. Such documents include, for example, military service booklets, evidence of political affiliations, national passports with dates of previous travel, and identity documents for family members residing in a resettlement country, as well as identity documents for Resettlement Case members with relevant birth, death, marriage, divorce and custody documents. If an individual’s personal documents have been lost, confiscated or destroyed, or do not correctly reflect their gender identity, further details should be provided in the Needs Assessment and taken into account during the Initial Review.

All notes, assessments and recommendations are recorded in proGres, which is the repository of all relevant information for case management. Copies of supporting documents (e.g. medical reports, disability certificates, custody and other personal documents, assessments, etc.) should be kept in a secure digital file. There is no added value in keeping physical copies, which risks creating important gaps in proGres/ digital files.

If additional information, documentation or clarification is required from the referral source or another functional unit or partner before a Needs Assessment can be finalized (e.g. BID, Medical Assessment, RSD), the process status of Resettlement Case members should be changed to “hold”, indicating the reason for changing the process status with comments. SOPs should include timelines for periodic reviews of cases on hold, whether by the relevant caseworker or other assigned UNHCR staff, to ensure that these cases are progressing. See Holding a Resettlement Case in 4.7 Submission.

The Needs Assessment recommendation must be recorded in proGres in order for the Resettlement Case to move to the Initial Review stage.

The Needs Assessment results in a written summary and recommendation in proGres:

  • Recommended for consideration through a substantive Resettlement Interview, subject to an Initial Review by a more senior colleague.
  • Not recommended for consideration, in which the case does not proceed to Resettlement Interview, subject to an Initial Review by a more senior colleague.

Note: In proGres, a Resettlement Case that is recommended for consideration or submission represents one RRF only, for submission to one resettlement State only. Registration Groups and Individuals may be associated with multiple Resettlement Cases. Each case has a unique reference number. If a Resettlement Case is created for the purposes of resubmission to a different resettlement State based on a Denial Review following a previous submission and denial – or exceptionally, in parallel to another active Resettlement Case for the same individuals which is pending a decision by another resettlement State – the Needs Assessment for the new case may be completed with a recommendation for submission (instead of consideration). It can then be moved directly to the Submission Review, after updating the existing RRF as necessary, without completing another Initial Review in proGres.

The Initial Review

The Initial Review is an integrity safeguard and promotes transparency and accountability in the resettlement process. It ensures that, no matter how simple the resettlement processing modality, there is always more than one colleague involved in pre-screening a case before it is recommended/ not recommended for a Resettlement Interview. For integrity and consistency of the resettlement process, the Initial Review should be conducted by a more senior colleague than the person who conducted the Needs Assessment.

Depending on the operational context, offices may choose to form a committee to decide whether a case is suitable for resettlement consideration, ensuring data protection and privacy principles are adhered to. The existence of such a committee, however, does not remove the individual accountability of the colleagues conducting the Needs Assessment and Initial Review.

For normal priority cases, the Initial Review should be completed within two weeks of receipt and the decision recorded in proGres.

Steps to complete the Initial Review

The Reviewing Officer responsible for the Initial Review determines the appropriate course of action. The options are:

Additional information is required: the case is referred back to Needs Assessment, or sent for follow-up to the referring source, other functional unit or partner, depending on the information required or issue to be addressed.

The Resettlement Case is not recommended for consideration and is closed in proGres. The caseworker or other assigned UNHCR/partner staff should inform Case members of the decision not to proceed and provide counselling on the reason for the decision and potential future eligibility, if relevant. This counselling is recorded in the Resettlement Case form or Counselling entity in proGres, according to SOPs. A Resettlement Case may be not recommended for consideration for reasons including:

(i)  The case raises clear eligibility, security or admissibility-related concerns and the identified resettlement needs are not sufficiently important to proceed.

(ii) The case does not demonstrate vulnerability or protection needs justifying prioritization for resettlement to a third country.

(iii) Case members would be eligible and can apply for family reunification or have applied for a complementary pathway for admission to a third country, such as private sponsorship.

(iv) Case members have an accessible and foreseeable pathway to a local solution, for example, as a result of having a spouse or children who are nationals of the country of asylum.

(v) The case involves unresolved credibility concerns.

The Resettlement Case is recommended for consideration and all members of the case are to be scheduled for interview.

There are a number of Resettlement Profiles that can be recorded at Initial review, or at Submission Review, for example, “Diverse SOGI/Intersex (LGBTI)”. A Resettlement Profile should be entered before clearing or screening out cases for resettlement consideration/ submission, in order to capture all cases of a specific profile referred to the resettlement process. A Resettlement Manager profile is required to enter this data; this responsibility may rest with Reviewers in the country office or the relevant regional bureau or headquarters.