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Special vulnerabilities

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.

Accelerated procedures and applicants with special needs

Unlike many governments, UNHCR’s policy is to not use accelerated procedures to reject applicants with “manifestly unfounded” applications:

Claims that appear to be manifestly unfounded (i.e. clearly fraudulent or manifestly outside of the scope of the refugee definition) should be processed under normal RSD procedures, and should not be referred to Accelerated RSD Processing procedure (section 4.6.4).

Instead, UNHCR policy calls for accelerated procedures to positively identify refugees with special needs.

UNHCR’s policy calls for applicants with special needs or vulnerabilities to be identified at registration or as early as possible.  UNHCR’s RSD standards identify the following main categories of special needs (section 3.4.1 and 4.6.3):

  • Persons manifestly in need of protection intervention (i.e. with urgent protection needs in the host country)
  • Victims of torture and persons suffering from trauma
  • Women with special needs or who are at risk in the host country
  • Certain child applicants (under 18 years) / Unaccompanied & separated children
  • Elderly asylum-seekers without support in the host country
  • Disabled asylum-seekers without necessary support
  • Asylum-seekers who require urgent medical assistance

Special needs applicants are to received special priority in scheduling RSD interviews and processing, in line with applicable UNHCR standards for particular circumstances.

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