Guidelines on International Protection No. 11: Prima Facie Recognition of Refugee Status



  1. A prima facie approach means the recognition by a State or UNHCR of refugee status on the basis of readily apparent, objective circumstances in the country of origin or, in the case of stateless asylumseekers, their country of former habitual residence. A prima facie approach acknowledges that those fleeing these circumstances are at risk of harm that brings them within the applicable refugee definition.

  2. Although a prima facie approach may be applied within individual refugee status determination procedures (see Part III. D in these Guidelines), it is more often used in group situations, for example where individual status determination is impractical, impossible or unnecessary in large-scale situations. A prima facie approach may also be applied to other examples of group departure, for example, where the refugee character of a group of similarly situated persons is apparent.

  3. Recognizing refugee status on a prima facie basis has been a common practice of both States and UNHCR for over 60 years. Despite its common use and the fact that the majority of the world’s refugees are recognized on a prima facie basis, there has been limited articulation of uniform standards to guide the practice. These Guidelines explain the legal basis as well as some procedural and evidentiary aspects of applying a prima facie approach. They outline standards of general application by States and by UNHCR, albeit some of those (e.g. legal decrees) are employable only by States. The Guidelines focus on group determination primarily, albeit