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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


Annex 1 - Sample Voluntary Repatriation Form

An example of the type of form that might be used for a large-scale repatriation is given below. Where FBARS is used, it produces a pre-completed form with information taken during registration, which will then only need the signature. This form can be modified to suit the requirements of the operation.

Notes for those drawing up the form

1. Agree the information required with the authorities. All of the items in the example below may not be necessary.

2. Agree who needs to complete a separate form. The example is designed to be completed by each person over 18 years old and unaccompanied children, but it may be sufficient to have the head of the family group complete one form for all accompanying dependents.

3. Agree on the number of copies and language(s): normally original plus three copies with the following distribution: original - authorities; UNHCR in country of asylum; copy 1 - applicant; copies 2 and 3 -for travel and arrival formalities.

4. If at all possible, print the forms in sets on 'pre-carboned' paper.

5. Draw up simple completion instructions.


I, the undersigned principle applicant, declare that I (and my dependents) after due consideration wish to be repatriated to ____________________




Annex 2 - Types of Transport

General Considerations

Below are some advantages and disadvantages of the common means of transport. Whichever form of transport is used, the plan should also take into consideration:

1. Food, accommodation and minimum emergency health care during the journey. Where distances are short, it is recommended that only material assistance needed for the duration of the journey, plus, if essential, for the first few days after arrival, be distributed prior to departure. This will help reduce any incentive to "repatriate" several times;

2. Capacity to move all reasonable private possessions of the refugees, if at all possible at the same time as their owners. Remember that what refugees carry with them on return will be used to ensure more successful reinstallation and move more quickly towards self-sufficiency (i.e., roofing material, livestock, etc.);

3. Appropriate security and the maintenance of public order during all stages of the journey;

4. Arrangements for the safe transfer of the required documentation, passenger lists, registration forms, etc., and for keeping statistical records of the progress of the operation;

5. Escort or monitoring of the actual repatriation by or on behalf of UNHCR. At least for the first movements, a UNHCR staff member should accompany the returnees. Ensure voluntariness even during the movement stage.




(i) Spontaneous and self-organized

(i) Returnees can take little household effects

(ii) No logistical requirements necessary

(ii) Requires first aid medical stations, provision of potable water and food along route

(iii) Special assistance required for vulnerable groups (children, elderly, disabled)

(iv) Increased security risk. Risk of separation of families


(i) Can be used on most roads

(i) Open to elements

(ii) Usually available

(ii) Danger to passengers

(iii) Plenty of space for luggage

(iii) Uncomfortable


(i) Greater passenger capacity in safety

(i) Limited luggage space except on roof

(ii) Faster than truck if roads allow

(ii) Slower unloading and loading (e.g. at border and road checks

(iii) More comfortable

Notes for truck and bus

1. Assuming both bus and truck are available, the deciding factor may well be journey distance. If road conditions allow, a bus is usually preferred for longer journeys. Check with the refugees if a truck is acceptable, consider how small children would fare, what passengers would hold on to and how luggage will be secured. Some form of sun shade or other protection may be necessary.

2. For both truck and bus, the following facilities will be needed:

-vehicle fuel;

- food and water for repatriates during journey;

- emergency health care;

- breakdown or recovery service;

- vehicle insurance for the country of destination.

3. For any movement by road, try to avoid having to change vehicles at the frontier. While it is generally easier to use vehicles from the country of asylum, consider if having those from the country of origin coming to fetch repatriates has advantages. Ensure that drivers do not work excessive hours and that they have immigration and other clearances through to the destination.

4. It may be difficult to keep trucks together in tightly grouped convoys, and this is often impracticable on dusty roads in any event. However, there must be one person clearly identified as responsible for each group of vehicles. Seek local advice on how to marshal and control the vehicles. Prearranged stopping points where all vehicles regroup, with the person in charge in the last vehicle is one solution. Make sure all drivers are aware of breakdown or accident procedures.




(i) Easy overall control including border crossing

(i) Much less flexible: secondary transport required to and from railhead

(ii) Plenty of luggage space

(ii) Often slower than road

(iii) Can be made self-sufficient (fuel, food, water, etc.) over longer distances


1. Movement by rail rather than road may be the better solution where large numbers are repatriating to the same initial destination.

2. To avoid delays at the border, try and organize immigration, customs and health formalities either only at the final destination or by embarking officials who complete them during the journey.




(i) Swift, convenient and easily controlled

(i) High cost

(ii) Assembly and reception facilities are likely to exist

(ii) Secondary transport required to and
from airport

(iii) Optimum means for long distances and especially
for the sick, disabled and otherwise vulnerable

(iii) Limited luggage capacity


1. For any large scale repatriation, existing commercial flights will be insufficient (and more expensive than chartering). In general, the most economical aircraft on a medium or long haul is a full wide-bodied jet (i.e. jumbo or airbus type).

2. UNHCR has considerable experience in chartering aircraft for repatriation operations. The agreement is likely to be concluded from Geneva and advice should be sought from Headquarters (the Regional Bureau and Supply and Transport Section) regarding procedures and standards of safety.

3. In addition to practical matters such as runway length, consider requesting from the governments concerned:

- concession to use duty free fuel (check fuel availability);

-waivers of in-flight route charges, landing and parking fees;

- payment only for actual cost of handling charges rather than the fixed commercial fees.




(i) Greater passenger and luggage capacity

(i) Secondary transport to or from port

(ii) Assembly and reception facilities already likely
to exist

(ii) Slow and costly

(iii) Comfortable

(iii) Sea sickness