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4.5 Group processing

UNHCR’s group processing methodology

Group resettlement refers to the simplified large-scale processing for resettlement by UNHCR and resettlement States. Identifying case for resettlement through UNHCR’s group methodology significantly expands resettlement opportunities and is an important responsibility-sharing mechanism. It can also be an essential component in a comprehensive response to protracted refugee situations.

Group resettlement is generally considered for large numbers of refugees, where a number of conditions are met to safeguard against the risks associated with this type of approach. All group resettlement proposals must be discussed with, and cleared by, the relevant regional bureau and the RCPS prior to finalization. Consultation with UNHCR offices in neighbouring countries during the assessment stage helps to ensure that the potential regional impact of launching a group resettlement programme is fully considered.

Identifying a “group” in need of resettlement

The office considering use of group resettlement should examine certain parameters to identify potential refugee populations in protracted and other situations. The following parameters are a guide:

  • The group of refugees should share some common characteristics, e.g., nationality, place of origin, date of arrival, reason for flight, political, ethnic or religious background, need for resettlement or any other characteristic which might distinguish them easily from other groups present in the country or region.
  • A group must be clearly defined and finite, so as to avoid continuing replenishment of the group and fraud risk.
  • The location(s) of the group should be known and established.

Identification methodology

Mapping and profiling activities inform UNHCR’s proposal for an identified group and supports the development of eligibility criteria. This depends on access to comprehensive, accurate and current registration data in proGres. From this data, locked “lists” are generated for those refugees meeting criteria agreed upon by UNHCR and the resettlement country (e.g., nationality, place of birth/ last habitual residence, arrival date, resettlement need). Strong coordination is required between operational data managers (ODM) and resettlement when identifying a group, including supporting the identification of cases and the generation of lists from proGres, as well as ensuring integrity safeguards throughout the process.

Proposing a group for resettlement

Once the Head of Office has approved the preliminary consideration of a group, a preliminary group proposal (Step 1 of the Group Profile and Proposal Document) is completed. This document should be approximately two to four pages long and include:

  • a description of the potential group (including estimated size, demographic data);
  • the rationale for proposing the resettlement of the potential group;
  • identification of the common characteristics of the members of the group;
  • possible constraints to successful resettlement;
  • preliminary resource implications for UNHCR and resettlement countries;
  • recommended processing modality (e.g. verification exercise to determine membership of group and interest in resettlement, specified processing modality (e.g. standard or abridged RRFs, etc.);
  • description of any complementary P-1 referrals for dependents not included in the group submission;
  • proposed timeline for implementation; and
  • suggested countries for submission.

Evaluation and analysis

The preliminary group proposal must be submitted to the relevant regional bureau and the RCPS for feedback, analysis and evaluation. One of the following four possible responses may be proposed:

  • The concerned refugee population should be pursued as a “group” (proceed to feasibility stage).
  • Specified additional information is required about the proposed group before its feasibility can be determined.
  • The concerned refugee population is not appropriate to be processed under group methodology, but the refugee population should be processed for resettlement on an individual basis.  
  • The concerned refugee population is not appropriate for further action and resettlement of the proposed population should not be pursued. 

In determining which of the above responses is the most appropriate, RCPS will take into account:

  • possible strategic impact of the group resettlement within a comprehensive solutions strategy;
  • size of the proposed group, and stable or fluid nature of the population;
  • whether or not the proposed group has undergone individual RSD, has prima facie refugee status or a high presumption of inclusion of refugee status under the Convention definition;
  • the commonality and complexity of refugee claims, including exclusion and admissibility issues;
  • quality and accuracy of registration, and resources required for verification;
  • consistency with regional approach to a given refugee population and potential for pull factors;
  • security concerns, (as well as access to population by UNHCR and resettlement partners);
  • extent of local cooperation, established procedures and processing capacity between UNHCR, IOM, embassies and partners;
  • existence of alternatives to group submission;
  • whether group or expedited processing is most efficient and economical (in terms of time and resources);
  • resettlement country preferences and capacities, and
  • host country considerations including views about group resettlement, foreseen protection dividends, access to registration data or implications for asylum systems.

The Group Profile and Proposal Document

Following a response by the RCPS, and provided indications are positive about the proposal, the country office should prepare and complete Step 2 of the Group Profile and Proposal Document (GPPD) and submit this complete document to RCPS for final clearance. The group profile document replaces the refugee claim and resettlement need on abridged RRFs. It should address the issues and questions resettlement country officials typically wish to examine in the context of resettlement selection. When RCPS has accepted the Group Proposal document, it will formally approach the resettlement country with the GPPD.

Plan of action

Following a clear indication of interest in processing a particular group, the field or country office prepares a Group Resettlement Plan of Action on the basis of consultations with the relevant regional bureau and RCPS, resettlement countries and partners. Although plans will widely vary depending on context, they should include:

  • case processing modalities (use of RRF, supporting documentation required, resolving dependency issues);
  • tools and digital systems to be used (proGres, BIMS, Data Transfer Platform, etc);
  • applicable data protection and privacy standards;
  • applicable identity management standards throughout the process;
  • procedures and safeguards to prevent and detect fraud and to mitigate fraud risks;
  • communication with communities and managing expectations;
  • child protection safeguards and ensuring the best interests of children, specifically BIAs/BIDs for unaccompanied and separated children;
  • roles and responsibilities;
  • resource requirements (personnel, logistical support, costing and budget) and
  • strategy for handling denied cases.

In all cases, the Plan of Action should give special attention to the best interests of unaccompanied, separated and other children at risk. Similarly, possible reception and integration issues specific to the group should, where possible, be identified.

Interviews: verification of data and consent

Care must be taken to ensure that only those cases that meet the definition of the group are presented for consideration to a resettlement country. Maintaining confidentiality with respect to the eligibility criteria for group processing until relevant decisions have been taken may be an important fraud prevention measure. The sophistication of this exercise depends in large part on how recently the registration data in proGres was verified. SOPs should be developed for the verification and consent exercise, which aims to:

  • Verify the identity of refugees and their dependents in the group.
  • Ascertain interest and consent to be considered for resettlement.
  • Inform refugees about their rights as data subjects in resettlement processing as well as with whom personal data will be shared and for what purpose.
  • Verify family composition.
  • Identify child protection issues and arrange BIAs/BIDs, as necessary.
  • Identify any persons not belonging to the defined group (e.g. due to exclusion issues, credibility or integrity concerns).

Verification interviews may be based on a checklist of questions required for resettlement processing, including verifying and updating all personal data. In addition, any complexities arising in the interview should be explored, including inclusion, credibility or exclusion issues. Any cases triggering exclusion concerns should be referred to RSD/protection colleagues for support, according to SOPs.

Minor errors and inconsistencies are referred to registration personnel to resolve and correct in proGres and/or can be explained in section 7 of the RRF. Where required under UNHCR’s Policy on Addressing fraud Committed by persons of Concern and related Guidelines, inconsistencies are referred to the Anti-Fraud Focal Point and an audit report generated.

As with all individual case processing, immediate protection needs identified during the interview should be recorded and the individual referred to protection partners for follow-up.

RRFs submitted under the group methodology

Group processing requires the transfer of personal data of refugees in the ‘group’ as determined by agreement between the resettlement State and UNHCR. This is usually achieved through the completion of an abridged RRF populated by Resettlement Case data from proGres. The global abridged RRF template for group submission includes the following sections of RRF:

  • Section 1: Resettlement Case information
  • Section 2: Case members and contact details
  • Section 3: Relatives
  • Section 6: Specific needs
  • Section 7: Additional remarks
  • Section 8: Declaration
  • Section 9: Attachments

Since information related to the group’s refugee claims and resettlement needs is set out in detail in the Group Profile and Proposal Document, Sections 4 (Refugee claim) and 5 (Resettlement need) are generally not required. See 4.6 Completing the Resettlement Registration Form (RRF) for guidance on completing the remaining RRF sections. The Declaration page in section 8 is signed by all adult Case members and kept in the individual’s file. Supporting documents relevant to individual cases (e.g. BIA, BID, MAF) are submitted with the related RRF.

Specific group submission procedures are determined by the resettlement country and UNHCR. Following submission to resettlement countries, the referring office should remain involved in monitoring the results of the case processing and should handle any post-submission case follow-up and issues associated with denied or complex cases where complementary interviews with the concerned refugees may be required. A post-submission analysis of the exercise should also be conducted. see 4.7 Submission and 4.8 Resettlement country selection for general submission and post-submission guidance.