Recognising refugees

Due out October 2020

Deadline for submissions: 15th June 2020

Please note: The original call for articles was written before the outbreak of COVID-19. We invite authors to consider whether it would be useful and appropriate to include some analysis of a) the impact (whether actual or anticipated) of the pandemic and b) governments/RSD actors’ responses, relating to those aspects of RSD that they plan to discuss in their articles. Please do not add COVID-related commentary purely for the sake of acknowledging the pandemic but only where it is core to what you are discussing.

It is generally assumed that States need processes in order to determine who is a refugee, and who is not – in other words, that they should conduct refugee status determination (RSD). However, in over 50 countries, it is the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that conducts RSD, including when States are not party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and/or where they lack a fully functioning national asylum procedure. UNHCR also plays an integral role in national RSD decision-making bodies in many other States. Regional bodies like the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) also increasingly influence national asylum decisions in Europe.

RSD determines who is offered international protection, which status they receive, and who is excluded from protection under Article 1F of the Refugee Convention. Clearly, the accessibility, fairness and efficiency of RSD has immense implications for the protection and assistance of people of concern. There is much evidence, however, that recognition processes are beset with problems. Some refugees choose not to seek recognition. Some first-instance decisions are subject to a very high overturn rate on appeal (and are subject to criticism from international and regional human rights bodies). Often, it is the RSD systems themselves that are criticised for having an institutional ‘culture of disbelief’ of applicants’ claims, rejecting those with genuine claims and exposing them to the risk of refoulement, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations.

The aim of this FMR feature – which is being produced in collaboration with the Refugee Studies Centre’s team working on the ERC-funded RefMig project led by Professor Cathryn Costello[1] – is to deepen and broaden our understanding of how refugees are recognised. It will explore the full range of modes of recognition, whether group-based or individual: from temporary protection in Turkey, to prima facie recognition across Africa, to the highly individualised systems in many European States. We welcome a particular focus on countries hosting significant numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, especially countries located in the Global South, and we particularly encourage comparison of refugee recognition across multiple sites.

This issue of FMR will provide a forum for refugees and their representatives, officials engaged in status determination, asylum policymakers, researchers and humanitarian practitioners to reflect on their experiences of refugee recognition and its consequences, and offer recommendations and examples of good practice. In particular, the FMR Editors are looking for policy-/practice-oriented submissions, reflecting a diverse range of experience and opinions, which address questions such as the following:

Modes of refugee recognition

  • What are the diverse modes of refugee recognition and how do they vary? (Including individual or group-based, formal or informal, accelerated, simplified, merged registration, or merged resettlement processes.)
  • What factors explain which modes are employed by States and/or UNHCR? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these diverse modes of recognition?
  • When is group recognition applied? What can be learned from its different applications?
  • How has RSD emerged as a central process in the global refugee regime and how has it evolved over time? What recent developments have shaped it?



  • How have the bodies established to undertake RSD evolved? What impact does their composition have on the quality of decision making?
  • Are there questions over the independence of refugee recognition bodies? How can their independence be assured and potential political or other interference be addressed?
  • What challenges do UNHCR, national and regional bodies face in undertaking RSD?
  • What challenges does the transfer of RSD from UNHCR to national bodies present? What effects do such handovers have on the quality or efficiency of refugee recognition?
  • To what extent are the courts of law involved in the refugee recognition process? What are the limits of judicial influence?
  • To what extent do applicants have access to legal representation, and how – and by whom – can gaps in provision of legal representation be addressed?


Access to refugee recognition

  • How do asylum seekers weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of securing recognition in order to make informed decisions?
  • What are the legal, political and practical difficulties hindering people’s access to the asylum system and to a fair hearing?
  • To what extent do political decisions and practical difficulties impede a system’s accessibility? How are decisions taken about which applicants to prioritise and deprioritise?
  • How are registration and recognition intertwined, and what are the implications of the links between resettlement and RSD?


Quality of refugee recognition

  • What difficulties arise in securing high-quality Country of Origin and other relevant evidence, and what are the implications of this?
  • How can the accuracy and fairness of RSD be assured? What role should credibility assessment have in RSD processes?
  • How is procedural fairness understood by applicants and ensured by those overseeing the RSD process?
  • How are changes in recognition processes shared?  How do good and bad practices spread?
  • What examples of good practice can be drawn from managing asylum caseloads, avoiding backlogs, and dealing with large numbers of applications?
  • What are the ethical, legal and practical challenges associated with new technologies and data science in RSD? How can these be addressed?
  • What are the challenges to ensuring consistency in decision making across different offices at the local, national and regional levels? Do efforts to ensure consistency in outcomes enhance or undermine the quality of the recognition process?
  • Is refugee recognition guaranteed to bring about an improvement in legal status and effective protection?


BEFORE WRITING YOUR ARTICLE: If you are interested in contributing, please email the Editors at with a few sentences about your proposed topic so that we can provide feedback and let you know if we are interested in receiving your submission.

WHEN WRITING/SUBMITTING YOUR ARTICLE: Please take note of our guidelines for authors and ensure your article, when submitted, complies with our submission checklist: details at do not accept articles that do not comply with our checklist.

Please note: We ask all authors to give appropriate consideration to the particular relevance of their responses to persons with disabilities, to LGBTIQ+ persons, to older persons, and to other groups with specific vulnerabilities, and to seek to include a gendered approach as part of their articles. We also ask authors to consider, where appropriate, the impact of climate change in their analysis and recommendations.

While we are looking for examples of good, replicable practice and experience as well as sound analysis of the issues at stake, we also urge writers to discuss failures and difficulties: what does/did not work so well, and why?

We are particularly keen to reflect the experiences and knowledge of communities and individuals directly affected by these questions. If you have suggestions of colleagues or community representatives who may wish to contribute, please do email us; we are happy to work with individuals to help them develop an article and very keen to have displaced peoples perspectives reflected in the magazine.

Deadline for submission of articles: 15th June 2020
Maximum length: 2,500 words.


[1] The RefMig project examines refugee recognition regimes in a range of countries that host a high number of asylum seekers and refugees.

facebook logo Twitter logo RSS logo email.png

Forced Migration Review
Refugee Studies Centre
Oxford Department of International Development
University of Oxford
3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB, UK  +44 (0)1865 281700
skype: fmreview