More than a Head Count
Registration goes far beyond a mere head count: it is the recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.
The number of people requiring protection and assistance determines the amount of food, water and other material help needed, as well as the extent of shelter, health and sanitation facilities. Registration is crucial for identifying those individuals who are at risk or have special needs.
Registration, by providing a record of their status, helps protect refugees against refoulement (forced return), arbitrary arrest and detention. It can give them access to services or assistance and can foster freedom of movement to make them more independent. Registering children helps prevent military recruitment, keeps families together and assists UNHCR in reuniting separated children with their families. UNHCR advocates that all refugees and asylum seekers be registered individually.
The registration of people, which includes details of the reasons they have sought asylum, is essential for identifying those for whom resettlement or local integration, rather than repatriation, are the most appropriate solutions.
Since 2004, the process has been facilitated by the introduction of proGres, a UNHCR database application that is now in use in more than 70 countries and contains not only written details of individuals, but also their photos. While registration of refugees and asylum seekers remains the responsibility of host states, UNHCR assists them when needed.
The refugee agency is setting up a project to improve proGres and make it more effective for operational needs. This will ensure that this valuable tool continues to play a key role in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.