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UNHCR’s recognition rate: Relatively high overall, but inconsistent up close

July 15, 2009

As RSDWatch reported last year, UNHCR is statistically more likely to recognize a refugee claim than an average government. UNHCR recognized 81 percent of the individual RSD applications that its offices decided in 2008, roughly twice the average global recognition rate of 41 percent.*

The UNHCR recognition rate was inflated because it included several asylum-seeker populations that were granted protection through expedited procedures, resulting in recognition rates of 100 or nearly 100 percent. Such groups included Iraqis in Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Turkey and Yemen; Burmese in Malaysia; Eritreans in Kenya; Afghans in Syria; and Sri Lankans in Malaysia.

Such statistics indicate a general willingness by UNHCR to extend protection, but may not represent how UNHCR offices decide refugee cases when individual applications are subject to full-fledged RSD.

But even excluding these populations, UNHCR’s adjusted global recognition rate was 64 percent, still much higher than the global average. In real human terms, UNHCR offices rejected 8,032 applications for refugee recognition in 2008, a decline from the year before, and the fewest this decade.

Statistics show inconsistency among UNHCR offices

Recognition rates are a rough index of the effectiveness of a refugee status determination system. Different RSD systems receive different types of asylum seekers. A country that received more Eritrean applications (global recognition rate: 93 percent) will likely post a higher recognition rate than one that receives more Nigerians (global recognition rate: 10 percent), even if they are similar in fairness.

Close analysis of UNHCR’s RSD statistics show that many UNHCR offices are more likely to accept certain nationalities of applicants than governments, confirming UNHCR’s overall relative receptiveness to refugee claims. But some UNHCR offices report substantially lower recognition rates than global averages for certain nationalities.

A lower relative recognition rate does not on its own mean that a UNHCR office is treating a group of asylum-seekers unfairly, or even that it is being particularly strict. Because of differences in migration patterns, the type of asylum-seekers who arrive in one country may differ from another country, even for the same nationality. Where the number of cases decided is particularly small, comparisons can become particularly misleading.

But a low relative recognition rate is nevertheless a useful signal that something may be wrong in the way a UNHCR office is conducting RSD. By analogy, a low recognition rate in RSD is similar to a medical symptom that calls for examination by a physician because it might signal a serious illness. But it may also mean nothing.

UNHCR recognition rates in 2008 compared to government rates, by nationality and UNHCR office

We report below comparative recognition rates for UNHCR offices in 2008, with comparable global and government figures.

UNHCR offices that appeared, statistically, relatively accepting of refugee claims are marked in blue.

UNHCR offices that appeared, statistically, relatively likely to reject refugee claims are marked in red. These statistics call for further investigation of RSD in these field offices.

No color indicates that UNHCR’s recognition rate is comparable to the government average.

BANGLADESHIS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Hong Kong 0 137 0%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 0 137 0%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 10%
GOVERNMENTS
Australia 30%
Canada 68%
Cyprus 0%
France 16%
Italy 1%
BURUNDIS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Kenya 70 6 92%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 70 6 92%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 61%
GOVERNMENTS
Belgium 46%
Canada 73%
Mozambique 28%
Sweden 13%
Uganda 75%
DRC
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Cameroon 54 141 28%
Morocco 36 218 14%
Kenya 246 17 94%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 336 376 47%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 64%
GOVERNMENTS
Belgium 15%
Burundi 91%
Canada 70%
Congo 4%
France 32%
Nigeria 38%
Germany 38%
Ireland 5%
Mozambique 46%
Namibia 18%
Norway 32%
Switzerland 54%
ERITREANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Djibouti 73 0 100%
Egypt 374 250 60%
Kenya 96 0 100%
Libya 312 12 96%
Sudan 110 0 100%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 965 262 79%
UNHCR ADJ TOTAL 374 250 60%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 8099 10784 93%
GOVERNMENTS
Canada 97%
France 72%
Germany 80%
Israel 100%
Italy 90%
Uganda 98%
Malta 61%
Netherlands 94%
Norway 70%
Sudan 95%
Sweden 99%
Switzerland 75%
United Kingdom 77%
USA 80%
ETHIOPIANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Egypt 14 189 7%
Kenya 1513 95 94%
Somalia 705 610 54%
Sudan 131 0 100%
Yemen 173 308 36%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 2536 1202 68%
UNHCR ADJ TOTAL 2405 1202 co
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 62%
GOVERNMENTS
Canada 79%
Germany 25%
Italy 72%
Norway 52%
Sweden 19%
Switzerland 44%
Uganda 68%
United Kingdom 25%
USA 53%
IRANIANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Turkey 1112 213 84%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 1112 213 84%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 44%
GOVERNMENTS
Australia 78%
Austria 68%
Belgium 15%
Canada 92%
Cyprus 7%
France 47%
Germany 29%
Greece 1%
Italy 80%
Netherlands 44%
Norway 38%
Sweden 24%
Switzerland 50%
United Kingdom 27%
USA 74%
BURMESE (MYANMAR)
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
India 726 130 85%
Malaysia 9819 84 99%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 10545 214 98%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 90%
GOVERNMENTS
Japan 42%
United Kingdom 72%
USA 65%
NIGERIANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Morocco 0 157 0%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 0 157 0%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 10%
GOVERNMENTS
Austria 5%
Canada 62%
Cyprus 0%
France 17%
Germany 5%
Greece 0%
Ireland 1%
Italy 13%
Malta 1%
Norway 1%
Spain 4%
Sweden 14%
Switzerland 21%
United Kingdom 7%
USA 39%
PAKISTANIS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Hong Koing 11 252 4%
Sri Lanka 56 38 60%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 67 290 19%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 8%
GOVERNMENTS
Australia 67%
Austria 25%
Belgium 6%
Canada 59%
Cyprus 0%
France 13%
Germany 8%
Greece 0%
Hungary 5%
Ireland 9%
Italy 24%
Romania 1%
United Kingdom 14%
USA 48%
RWANDANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Cameroon 23 202 10%
Kenya 25 61 29%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 48 263 15%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 39%
GOVERNMENTS
Belgium 31%
Canada 81%
France 63%
Malawi 24%
SOMALIS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Egypt 389 15 96%
India 275 27 91%
Jordan 87 0 100%
Kenya 553 0 100%
Malaysia 278 0 100%
Pakistan 158 0 100%
Syria 964 24 98%
Thailand 112 0 100%
Turkey 323 30 92%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 3139 96 97%
UNHCR ADJ TOTAL 1951 96 95%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 80%
GOVERNMENTS
Austria 76%
Belgium 54%
Canada 95%
Ethiopia 79%
Finland 97%
Germany 88%
Hungary 99%
Italy 96%
Malta 98%
Netherlands 65%
Norway 84%
Sweden 70%
Switzerland 53%
United Kingdom 56%
USA 80%
SRI LANKANS
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Malaysia 957 22 98%
Thailand 215 91 70%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 1172 113 91%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 49%
GOVERNMENTS
Australia 39%
Belgium 56%
Canada 97%
France 39%
Germany 63%
Italy 56%
Netherlands 30%
Norway 68%
United Kingdom 22%
USA 17%
SUDANESE
UNHCR Country Recognized Rejected Composite Rec Rate
Egypt 152 97 61%
Kenya 98 269 27%
Lebanon 12 128 9%
Libya 195 64 75%
Syria 121 48 72%
Turkey 38 24 61%
UNHCR REPORTED TOTAL 616 630 49%
GLOBAL RATE (Composite: Incl Comp Prot) 71%
GOVERNMENTS
France 47%
Ireland 26%
Italy 68%
Spain 2%
United Kingdom 34%
USA 59%

* RSDWatch uses a composite recognition rate including both Convention refugee status and complimentary protection in order to produce an index of the likelihood of asylum-seekers receiving at least basic protection in particular countries.

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