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UNHCR-NGO Toolkit for Practical Cooperation on Resettlement. Community Outreach - Outreach to Host Communities: Definitions and FAQs

Resettlement, June 2011

a) What is meant by host community?

A host community in this context refers to the country of asylum and the local, regional and national governmental, social and economic structures within which refugees live. Urban refugees live within host communities with or without legal status and recognition by the host community. In the context of refugee camps, the host community may encompass the camp, or may simply neighbour the camp but have interaction with, or otherwise be impacted by, the refugees residing in the camp.

b) Why should UNHCR and NGOs work together on outreach to host communities?

Resettlement is oftentimes not the most preferred durable solution for refugees who are fully integrated within local host communities, and who enjoy effective protection within those communities. In pursuing the UNHCR mandate to protect, and secure durable solutions for refugees, UNHCR and NGO partners work with host communities to promote local integration and ensure refugee protection where appropriate. In some cases, however, host communities are unwilling or unable to provide effective protection or local integration to some of the refugees whom they are hosting, or are unable to meet critical needs of certain refugees. In such cases, it is critical for UNHCR, in consultation with host communities, NGO partners and resettlement countries, to determine how resettlement can be strategically pursued to support local integration and effective protection within the host community.

Likewise, it is critical for UNHCR and NGO partners to work with the host communities to identify profiles as well as specific individuals without local integration prospects or effective protection, who meet resettlement criteria and who should be considered for resettlement. Outreach to the host community is therefore important not only to promote local integration and protection, but also to identify those refugees in need of resettlement.

c) What types of outreach activities can UNHCR and NGOs jointly engage in?

These activities could include, inter alia: information campaigns to make host communities aware of refugees needs and how to mainstream assistance to refugees where it dovetails with strategic use of resettlement; to engage with governments and foster public support for the non‐discrimination of refugees; to expand asylum space, to improve the rights environment and livelihoods opportunities for refugees; to make the refugees aware of host community programmes and policies that affect them; to relay back to UNHCR information learned from these entities to inform policy and programmes; and to utilize host community "eyes and ears" to identify at‐risk refugees in need of interventions, including resettlement.

d) What are some key elements / considerations when conducting outreach activities with host communities?

UNHCR and partner NGOs should engage in outreach activities to host community organizations (social service and health organizations, law enforcement, educational institutions, community councils, etc.) in order to promote local integration, identify and address potential problems between host communities and refugees, and identify refugees with particular needs that are not being addressed.

In the context of resettlement, UNHCR and partner NGOs should carefully coordinate outreach activities to host communities to maximize their effectiveness and ensure consistency in message and implementation. Outreach must be pursued with great sensitivity so that resettlement will not be perceived as an alternative to finding local solutions to protection or integration concerns, but that it is pursued only when effective local solutions are not reasonably foreseeable, or when resettlement can be leveraged to support local solutions in a framework of responsibility sharing between countries of first asylum and resettlement countries. Similarly, outreach on resettlement should be sensitive to local perceptions that refugees enjoy privileges that locals do not. Finally, UNHCR and NGO partners must coordinate to ensure that outreach activities relating to resettlement take effective measures to prevent resettlement being used to fill personal or institutional interests or resettlement fraud.

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