Protected entry procedures are visa mechanisms that allow individuals to apply for entry into another country for the purpose of accessing protection under international refugee or human rights law. Procedures are made available within countries of origin or first asylum, their primary function being to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees can travel safely across international borders and avoid potentially dangerous or exploitative irregular journeys.
This Policy Brief draws on past and current State practice to outline what these procedures look like, and how they should operate as tools of refugee protection. It speaks to a core objective of the Global Compact on Refugees, which is to expand access to third-country solutions for refugees and asylum seekers.
Forced migration is currently at record highs worldwide, but not all those who are displaced will want or need to move outside their region of origin. UNHCR has identified a relatively small number of refugees, 1.4 million people, as needing resettlement under its annual program in 2020. This means that States could make a real difference by expanding the use of protected entry procedures and other complementary pathways to increase access to protection and solutions.
Key findings and recommendations
This Policy Brief recommends that States should implement and/or expand protected entry procedures to increase access to safe pathways to protection.
Protected entry procedures should comply with the following criteria:
- Complement, and be additional to, other avenues to protection
By complementing – and never replacing – the right to seek asylum directly through national asylum procedures, and being additional to existing annual resettlement programs, a protected entry procedure is better placed to be gender-responsive and/or reach applicants with particular vulnerabilities. Protection safeguards should include ensuring that rejection does not prejudice an applicant’s ability to apply for protection through other pathways, or reapply if their circumstances change.
- Be based on a multi-year commitment by States
This can provide predictability for refugees, partner organisations and States, better positioning national authorities in the destination country to plan for the housing, support services, educational and employment needs of refugees. In turn, a multi-year commitment enhances the strategic use of resettlement, encouraging host States to maintain protection space, and helping to ease conditions on the ground for other refugees and the local communities in which they live.
- Have transparent and flexible application criteria and processes
This can help asylum seekers to make an informed decision about whether they can apply and safely wait for their application to be finalised. Criteria ought to focus on protection factors and ought not discriminate on the basis of factors that are irrelevant. A flexible procedure can provide a safety net for those applicants who fall outside Convention criteria, but who are still in need of international protection, and allow asylum seekers to move between countries (of origin and/or first asylum and transit) while their application is in progress.