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Appeal to whom? UNHCR still has no independent appeals body for rejected asylum-seekers

September 19, 2005

Diverging from the advice it has given to governments, UNHCR’s newly published RSD procedures contained no plans to establish independent appeal mechanisms to review rejections of refugee applications.

UNHCR has long required that appeals be considered by an officer who was not involved in the first decision. This standard is repeated in its Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate, published in September 2005.

Refugee advocates have often called for UNHCR to establish a separate appeals mechanism so that rejected asylum-seekers will not have to submit their requests to officials who are close colleagues of the people responsible for their initial rejection.

UNHCR has told the Council of Europe: “A key procedural safeguard deriving from general administrative law and essential to the concept of effective remedy has become that the appeal be considered by an authority different from and independent of that making the initial decision.”

In August, a group of refugee rights organizations in Africa and the Middle East called on UNHCR to establish “fully independent appeal procedures in which appeals are judged by people institutionally insulated from those who decide first instance cases.”

Rejected asylum-seekers often send appeals to UNHCR headquarters, but there is no formal mechanism for reviewing such requests in Geneva and they are often forwarded back to local field offices.

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