What We Do
Eligibility & Registration
UNRWA maintains active files of approximately 5.5 million Palestine refugees and around 626,000 other persons of concern who have been identified as eligible for UNRWA services according to its Consolidated Eligibility and Registration Instructions (CERI). These files include individual civil registration records that are organised under family ledgers, and linked to documentation pertaining to ancestral files dating back to pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine. The registration records constitute the master database of the Agency, since all UNRWA programmes rely on individual and family registration numbers to verify refugee status and service eligibility. The associated documentation materials are also a valuable historical resource, whose preservation is an integral part of the protection of refugee rights.
UNRWA inherited registration records from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee that had been providing emergency assistance in the aftermath of the 1948 war. During 1950-51, the Agency conducted a census of Palestine refugees in its areas of operation to rectify those records and delete persons ineligible for assistance. The census resulted in the registration of some 875,000 Palestine refugees. Since then, UNRWA has been updating files from voluntarily supplied documentation on the original refugees and their descendants through the male line.
UNRWA re-opened its new inscription process in 1992. Palestine refugees who were not registered in the early fifties can now apply for registration, provided that they approach any UNRWA registration office in person and are able to produce valid documentation proving their 1948 refugee status. Since 2006, husbands and descendants of registered refugee women, known as ‘married to non-refugee’ (MNR) family members, have also become eligible to be registered to receive UNRWA services.
Efforts to electronically scan documents and create a computerized registration tool began in 1996. A web-based Refugee Registration Information System (RRIS) was introduced in 2010, and currently allows live updating of refugee information from 47 registration offices Agency-wide. The RRIS has enhanced the accuracy of data, improved service delivery and fixed persistent technical problems. It is the first step towards developing a fully integrated information system that will provide easier, faster, and more reliable access to the millions of files that UNRWA safeguards and uses for its operations.
UNRWA is in the process of developing an online portal that will allow Palestine refugees to access and download their personal files, including those pertaining to their family history. As a stakeholder to ensuring a just and sustainable solution for Palestine refugees, UNRWA also aims to contribute to a constructive awareness about the content of its refugee archives in the wider public. In this regard, it is in the process of designing a data access and protection policy that will delineate the framework conditions within which the sharing of some of the available data with third party users will be made possible without jeopardising refugee confidentiality and privacy rights.
Click here for the Consolidated Eligibility and Registration Instructions (CERI)
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