What We Do
Eligibility & Registration
UNRWA maintains active files of about 5.6 million Palestine refugees and over 600,000 other persons of concern who have been identified as eligible for UNRWA services according to its Consolidated Eligibility and Registration Instructions. These files include individual civil registration records that are organised under family ledgers, and linked to documentation materials 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, the League of Red Cross Societies and the American Friends Service Committee that had been providing emergency assistance in the aftermath of the 1948 conflict. During 1950-51, the Agency conducted a census of Palestine refugees in its fields 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 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 over 60 registration offices Agency-wide. The RRIS has enhanced data accuracy, improved service delivery and provided an electronic storage to the millions of files that UNRWA safeguards and uses for its operations.
Since the 2015 migration crisis from the Near East to Europe and abroad, UNRWA has also been responding to an increasing number of requests from governmental authorities, UNHCR and other organisations to verify registration records of Palestine refugees seeking asylum outside its fields of operation. To safeguard confidentiality and privacy rights, these requests are only processed upon receipt of a signed copy of the Registration Verification Form by the person whose registration status is to be verified.
UNRWA has recently published a Registered Population Dashboard which displays the main demographic characteristics of its registered population using interactive charts and tables with quarterly data. The dashboard also includes a brief explanation about the voluntary nature of UNRWA registration and the operational definitions of Palestine refugees and other persons of concern.
In response to the covid-19 crisis, UNRWA has launched a secure and user-friendly Online Registration Application which can be used by registered persons to submit a request for updating their registration information. It is the first step towards developing an integrated registration portal which will allow Palestine refugees to directly access their records and download electronic documents pertaining to their family history over the last 70 years.
Click here for the Consolidated Eligibility and Registration Instructions (CERI)
Click here for UNRWA Registered Population Dashboard.
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