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Determination of Refugee Status

Executive Committee Meetings

Determination of Refugee Status
No. 8 (XXVIII) - 1977

12 October 1977
Executive Committee 28th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/32/12/Add.1). Conclusion endorsed by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme upon the recommendation of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection of Refugees.

The Executive Committee,

(a) Noted the report of the High Commissioner concerning the importance of procedures for determining refugee status;

(b) Noted that only a limited number of States parties to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol had established procedures for the formal determination of refugee status under these instruments;

(c) Noted, however, with satisfaction that the establishment of such procedures was under active consideration by a number of Governments;

(d) Expressed the hope that all Governments parties to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol which had not yet done so would take steps to establish such procedures in the near future and give favourable consideration to UNHCR participation in such procedures in appropriate form;

(e) Recommended that procedures for the determination of refugee status should satisfy the following basic requirements:

(i) The competent official (e.g. immigration officer or border police officer) to whom the applicant addresses himself at the border or in the territory of a Contracting State, should have clear instructions for dealing with cases which might me within the purview of the relevant international instruments. He should be required to act in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and to refer such cases to a higher authority.

(ii) The applicant should receive the necessary guidance as to the procedure to be followed.

(iii) There should be a clearly identified authority - wherever possible a single central authority - with responsibility for examining requests for refugee status and taking a decision in the first instance.

(iv) The applicant should be given the necessary facilities, including the services of a competent interpreter, for submitting his case to the authorities concerned. Applicants should also be given the opportunity, of which they should be duly informed, to contact a representative of UNHCR.

(v) If the applicant is recognized as a refugee, he should be informed accordingly and issued with documentation certifying his refugee status.

(vi) If the applicant is not recognized, he should be given a reasonable time to appeal for a formal reconsideration of the decision, either to the same or to a different authority, whether administrative or judicial, according to the prevailing stem.

(vii) The applicant should be permitted to remain in the country pending a decision on his initial request by the competent authority referred to in paragraph (iii) above, unless it has been established by that authority that his request is clearly abusive. He should also be permitted to remain in the country while an appeal to a higher administrative authority or to the courts is pending.

(f) Requested UNHCR to prepare, after due consideration of the opinions of States parties to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, a detailed study on the question of the extra-territorial effect of determination of refugee status in order to enable the Committee to take a considered view on the matter at a subsequent session taking into account the opinion expressed by representatives that the acceptance by a Contracting State of refugee status as determined by other States parties to these instruments would be generally desirable;

(g) Requested the Office to consider the possibility of issuing - for the guidance of Governments - a handbook relating to procedures and criteria for determining refugee status and circulating - with due regard to the confidential nature of individual requests and the particular situations involved - significant decisions on the determination of refugee status.