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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder19. Voluntary Repatriation
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentUNHCR's Role in Voluntary Repatriation
View the documentConditions For a Voluntary Repatriation
View the documentOn Route
View the documentOn Arrival in Country of Origin
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes



Voluntary repatriation operations, even when planned in advance, may have many of the characteristics of an emergency, as defined in this Handbook. They often have to be organized at short notice and require "an extraordinary response and exceptional measures". Mass unplanned repatriation, especially when carried out in less than optimum conditions can resemble an emergency caused by a sudden influx of refugees.


To seek permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting with their voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity and their successful and durable reintegration into their home society.

Principles of Response

· The decision whether or not to return home belongs to the refugees. They should neither be forced to return, nor prevented from doing so;

· The voluntary nature of the repatriation must be verified and safeguarded by UNHCR.


· Deploy sufficient staff to collect information on the intentions of the returnees and to assess whether the repatriation is voluntary or not;

· Collect information in the country of origin concerning the conditions for return, share this information with the refugees;

· Define the nature of UNHCR's involvement in the repatriation, communicate this to all staff, and to governments and other agencies as appropriate;

· Provide assistance to returnees on the way home and upon arrival, if required, in line with the nature of UNHCR's involvement in the repatriation.