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4.9 Emergency transit facilities

What is an ETF?

Refugees with emergency or urgent resettlement needs should be processed expeditiously and resettled directly to their destination resettlement countries. However, this is not always possible. Emergency transit facilities (ETFs) are mechanisms to transfer refugees temporarily, pending processing for onward resettlement to a third country. Depending on the ETF and terms of the agreement with the respective government authorities in the transit country, requirements for transfer will vary. Some ETFs are suitable for the temporary transfer of refugees prior to their submission for resettlement while other ETFs require a positive indication of acceptance by a State which has already received and assessed a UNHCR resettlement submission. 

Suitable profiles for evacuation to an ETF

Depending on the ETF, individuals or groups that may be appropriate for consideration for evacuation to a transit facility include those:

  • At immediate risk of refoulement or facing other acute, life-threatening situations.
  • In detention and in need of resettlement, and where release from detention requires a transfer out of the country.
  • Whose cases are particularly sensitive or high-profile and face imminent or serious protection risks.
  • For whom resettlement processing cannot be completed in the host country due to inaccessibility, such as where resettlement countries are denied entry visas by the asylum country, or where access is restricted due to lack of security.
  • In need of resettlement for whom a resettlement country and/or UNHCR requires that their final destination for resettlement not be disclosed to the asylum country.
  • In situations where it is more expedient and incurs lower costs to process the cases even if the refugees concerned are not necessarily at immediate risk.

All colleagues and actors involved should take care to ensure confidentiality, sharing information about the evacuation strictly on a “need to know” basis.

Some refugees may not be suitable for evacuation. For example, refugees with serious illnesses or in need of immediate major medical interventions may not be suitable, given the lack of specialized medical treatment available at ETFs. Furthermore, the approval process for transfer to an ETF may be too long for cases requiring immediate action.

Coordination on procedures for transfer to an ETF

Evacuation procedures and terms of transfer are determined by each ETF, in light of the complexity of the situation and the partners involved. In all cases, coordination between UNHCR field colleagues, regional bureau, ETF and RCPS colleagues is required to ensure that evacuation movements take place efficiently and in a safe and predictable manner.

The individual resettlement State determines which procedures are required to finalize the resettlement processing after the arrival of the refugee(s) at the ETF. If interviews with the refugees are required, the resettlement State may arrange a mission to the ETF or may interview the refugees via video conference. Prior to departure, the resettlement State may require that the refugee undergo a medical examination and may arrange for cultural orientation and language lessons.

The country office and relevant regional bureau must be kept informed of the final processing and the departure of refugees from the ETF. proGres must be updated accordingly.