Refugee Status Determination or RSD is a legal process through which government or UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) decide among people who have applied for International protection whether they will be granted refugee status or not.
RSD process helps in filtering out people who have credible information and truly deserves refugee status from those who make false claims by providing misguided and distorted information. The state has the primary responsibility of conduction RSD but in case the state is not a party to the 1951 Convention, UNHCR conducts the RSD procedure.
The first step for a person seeking refugee status is to register. In registration, UNHCR records verify and update information about the concerned person. From the day of registration, it can take up to 12 months to receive an interview call. After the interview, within the next 3 to 6 months that person will be notified whether the application was accepted or rejected. In case, the application for seeking refugee status was rejected, the applicant has 30 days to apply again. After resubmitting an application, it can take 6 months or more for a re-interview, and then if the application is again rejected, that particular case will be closed. After this only on exceptional grounds case is opened again and there is no specific time limit for how many days it can take.
The main objective of the RSD process is to filter out economic migrants who want to enter a new country in search of a better standard of living from those people who want to seek asylum in fear of prosecution in their home country on the ground of their race, religion, nationality or membership of the political or social group. The RSD process makes sure people get the refugee status only if they fall into the category of ”Refugee” as mentioned in Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
While RSD is conducted, it is not expected out of the person applying for refugee status that he would have all the relevant documents on him and all the necessary information that is required is tried to establish during the time of the personal interview. In cases where there is still doubt but the person’s story as a whole sounds legitimate and reasonable, an applicant is given the benefit of the doubt and in case of minor, elderly people, survivors of SGBV (sexual and gender-based violence) they are also given the benefit of the doubt and threshold of the burden of proof is lowered fearing their life may be in grave danger.
The process of Internal flight alternative is sometimes seen as a measure to RSD process even though it was not a part of the 1951 convention it is still practiced by many states but UNHCR does not favor it as it may create barriers for people seeking international asylum by getting the refugee status. International flight alternative is a process wherein state can deny refugee status to a person who is claiming it on the ground of fear of prosecution in his host country but if this threat can be removed if he moved to someplace else in his country than as per the IFA process he can be denied the refugee status and can be asked to move to a different place in his home country.
RSD process is a mean, not an end. Even the RSD process has some exceptions like a person who has committed a crime against peace or humanity or is guilty of committing a crime as per the United Nations principles then he will not eligible for refugee status. Refugee status can also be ended if the person takes up the nationality of another country or voluntarily moves back to his home country which he left under the fear of prosecution.