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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


1. Voluntary repatriation operations can have many of the characteristics of an emergency operation in that they too may require "extraordinary response and exceptional measures" and often have to be organized on short notice. This chapter gives brief guidance on voluntary repatriation particularly in emergency circumstances, but further reference must always be made to the Handbook, Voluntary Repatriation: International Protection, UNHCR, 1996.

2. Voluntary repatriation is the preferred solution for the plight of refugees. Article 1 of the Statute requires the High Commissioner, to assist "Governments and, subject to the approval of the Governments concerned, private organizations to facilitate the voluntary repatriation" of refugees falling within the scope of the Statute.

3. Voluntary repatriation is usually characterized either as:

i. "Organized" - i.e. where refugees return in an organized manner assisted by UNHCR, or

ii. "Spontaneous" - i.e. where refugees return by their own means rather than as part of an organized operation.

4. Spontaneous return may take place unexpectedly, sometimes in conflict situations. UNHCR needs to position itself to provide timely and effective protection and assistance along routes of return and in the country of origin. In addition information on the conditions prevailing in the country of origin should be provided to the refugees (e.g. concerning landmines, routes of return and border conditions).

Spontaneous, mass repatriations are the most likely to require an exceptional response and extraordinary measures.