|Handbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)|
|11. Population Estimation and Registration|
· Knowing how many refugees there are and who they are is fundamental for planning and managing an efficient operation. There are several ways of determining numbers with sufficient accuracy;
· Although an accurate enumeration is essential, a formal mass registration should not necessarily be an automatic response at the start of an emergency;
· Successful registration needs good planning, careful implementation and consistent monitoring.
1. To plan and manage an efficient operation, one of the first things to know is how many refugees there are and who they are. An accurate enumeration is therefore an essential component of any assessment.
2. Chapter II, 8(f) of the UNHCR Statute states that the High Commissioner shall provide for the protection of refugees by "obtaining from Governments information concerning the number and condition of refugees in their territories". It must be made clear to the authorities that an assistance operation cannot be carried out without this information.
Although an accurate enumeration is essential, a formal mass registration should not necessarily be an automatic response at the start of an emergency.
There are a number of methods for accurate population estimation (including age/sex breakdown) which do not require formal registration. In some circumstances these simpler methods may be preferable as an initial response.
4. The main advantage of registration is that it provides a unique opportunity to acquire basic information for subsequent programming. It also helps avoid disputes about refugee numbers. Registration will also be an essential component of any individual or family tracing programme and may be an important factor in protecting refugees.
5. The most practical time to register refugees is when they arrive at a reception/ transit centre or site for settlement. Registration is often carried out in conjunction with health screening. Transferring refugees to a new site also provides a good opportunity for mass registration.
6. A discrepancy may arise with time, between official figures and the best estimates of those working closest to the refugees. Unless this discrepancy is swiftly resolved major problems will follow. Small discrepancies are likely, given the difficulties in enumeration and registration. Large ones can be avoided by timely action to verify numbers through the various methods set out in this chapter.
7. For detailed information on registration and population estimation techniques, refer to Registration - A Practical Guide for Field Staff.