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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder11. Population Estimation and Registration
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentPopulation Estimates
View the documentRegistration
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes



Refugee emergencies are characterized by a mobile population, often with rapidly fluctuating numbers. It is often difficult to collect exact information on the total number and composition of the population.


To find out the total number of the population of concern, and the breakdown of the population by age and sex, and by groups of special significance. The exact identity of those special groups will depend on the particular circumstances of the emergency.

Principles of Response

· Knowing who the refugees are and their number is essential for an efficient and cost effective operation;

· Formal mass registration should normally be the aim. Where this is not immediately possible, this can be reached in stages, starting with the first stage of population estimation;

· The final goal is a full registration of the refugee population;

· Information collected will be important for voluntary repatriation and re-integration into country of origin;

· Involvement and understanding by the refugees themselves is essential to the success of registration.


· Use population estimation techniques as a first step;

· Plan towards a full registration, keeping the population informed;

· Identify resources needed for full registration;

· Review the need for full registration and implement each phase towards full registration as soon as each is feasible.