Overseeing reception conditions
Standards for living conditions
Reception conditions mean, in other words, the treatment given by a country to asylum-seekers from the moment they lodge their application for asylum. Reception conditions include access to information at the border, living conditions in the refugee centers, access to legal counseling, access to education, to medical care, to employment, the length of the asylum procedure or the freedom of movement.
Under international and regional human rights and refugee law instruments, states have a responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of everyone on their territory or under their jurisdiction. This means that they have to provide adequate reception conditions in line with international standards.
However, in practice, states have a degree of discretion to decide what forms and kinds of support they offer to refugees and asylum seekers. Some only ensure a minimum level of treatment, while other states offer a broad range of rights and benefits. Also, states often have a differing interpretation of what minimum standards and conditions mean and do not mean.
In accordance with its mandate, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR therefore wants to guarantee that the reception conditions provided by a country to refugees and asylum seekers are of an adequate level and are in line with international standards. Therefore it continuously monitors reception conditions itself and through NGO partners in the countries of the region and advocates for their improvement where they do not meet the standards.
The monitoring looks at a number of aspects, including, among others, the time period asylum-seekers have to spend in detention, general living conditions in detention, reception, accommodation and other centres, qualification of staff and interpreters assisting refugees and asylum-seekers, provision of quality education to school-aged children or quality of medical care.
The level of reception standards can affect the chances for future integration. Therefore UNHCR considers vital that states ensure adequate living conditions to asylum-seekers during the procedure and allow them to engage in language training and social activities. Depending on the length of the asylum procedure, UNHCR also encourages governments to provide asylum-seekers with the opportunity to sustain themselves.