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Reasons for rejection

UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for RSD under UNHCR’s Mandate

Quick reference guide

The following is a RSDWatch summary and analysis of UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate, published by UNHCR in September 2005.  All references (i.e. section x.x) are to these Standards, unless otherwise noted.

Providing reasons for rejection

UNHCR’s policy is to notify asylum-seekers of positive or negative refugee status decisions by letter, in writing (section 6.4).

Wherever possible, Applicants whose claims are rejected should be informed in writing of the reasons for the rejection. Notification should permit rejected Applicants to make an informed decision about whether an appeal is appropriate and to focus appeal submissions on relevant facts and issues (section 6.4).

According to UNHCR policy, this is to be done using a standard form letter in which UNHCR officials will check the box of the appropriate category of reasons for rejection. Categorized reasons for rejection on this standard form include, among others:

  • “The reasons you have provided for being unable or unwilling to return to your country of origin are not related to the criteria for refugee status under UNHCR’s mandate.”
  • “The information you provided in support of your claim was not sufficiently detailed, and you did not provide a reasonable explanation for failing to provide information that was relevant to your claim.”
  • “The information you provided to UNHCR was not considered to be reliable on points that are material to your claim, for the following reasons: * Substantial inconsistencies were found within the information you provided relating to your claim; * Substantial inconsistencies were found between the information you provided and available sources of information about your country of origin; *The information you provided was not believable or convincing.”
  • “The harm you fear is not of the nature and/or seriousness as to constitute a form of persecution.”
  • “The authorities in your country of origin are able to provide effective protection from the harm you fear.”
  • “You are able to live in another part of your country of origin without fear of persecution and could reasonably return to live in this area without undue hardship.”

The form asks UNHCR staff “as a best practice” to provide specific facts or explanations below each applicable reason for rejection. UNHCR’s RSD Standards advise field offices that it is “best practice” to include sufficient details to permit the Applicant to know the following:

  • Evidence submitted by the Applicant that was considered to be insufficient or was not accepted by the decision-maker, and a summary explanation of why evidence was rejected;
  • The reason why the accepted facts do not make the Applicant eligible for refugee status. (section 6.4)

UNHCR limits providing additional details about the reason for rejection where doing so would endanger its staff security, where doing so “could compromise UNHCR’s ability to effectively carry out its mandate,” and where disclosure “of a particular kind of information could jeopardize the availability, security or reliability of the source of the information (including family members who provide statements regarding a Principal Applicant)” (section 6.4). However, whenever UNHCR limits disclosure of reasons for rejection, “the rejected Applicant should, wherever feasible and appropriate, have the opportunity to meet with a UNHCR staff member to receive more detailed reasons for the rejection of his/her claim” (section 6.4).

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