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UNHCR’s office in Cairo gives reasons for rejection in writing

May 28, 2011

UNHCR’s office in Cairo now gives asylum-seekers rejected in refugees status determination an explanation in writing, answering a decade-old call from human rights organizations.

Providing written individualized reasons for rejection has been a longstanding demand from advocates seeking due process reforms in UNHCR RSD. Since 2003, UNHCR’s official policy has  been to encourage field offices to do so, but UNHCR headquarters as so far not made it mandatory. But the practice has been spreading among many of the largest UNHCR RSD operations.

Reasons for rejection in Egypt is a particular milestone because it was one of the first locations where NGOs made a formal request for the reform. UNHCR-Cairo had been an early innovator in allowing legal aid in RSD in the late 1990s. In some cases UNHCR officials gave  reasons for decision by email to legal aid organizations representing asylum-seekers. In 2001, legal aid providers and Egyptian human rights organizations wrote a letter to UNHCR’s representative in Egypt asking for reasons for rejection in writing in all rejected applications. But UNHCR said no.

In the intervening years, UNHCR-Cairo experimented with posting generic coded rejections, such as “LOC” for “lack of credibility” and “NWP” for “no well-founded fear of persecution.” More recently the office gave rejected applicants an oral summary of the RSD decision. But until this year UNHCR-Cairo had declined to join the growing list of offices that were giving individualized reasons for decision in writing.

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