About Refworld

Mission & Scope

A Global Law and Policy Database operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
2020 Switzerland. UNHCR's ExCom meeting

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks at UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

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What is Refworld?

A Global Law and Policy Database operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

What is Refworld's mission?

The mission of Refworld is to be the leading global law and policy database on refugee law and statelessness, providing free, easy and speedy access to comprehensive and high-quality content from UNHCR and authoritative external sources to asylum decision-makers and other stakeholders.

What is Refworld's slogan?

Search the leading source of legislation, case law and UNHCR guidance on refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons.

What is the rationale behind Refworld?

UNHCR, created in 1950, is the leading organization for the protection and assistance of refugees around the world. It does this by, inter alia, “[p]romoting the conclusion and ratification of international conventions for the protection of refugees, supervising their application and proposing amendments thereto.”

Refworld is an important tool in the execution of UNHCR’s mandate as it contributes to:

  • the development and dissemination of policy, legal, and procedural guidance
  • the development and strengthening of State asylum systems by making available a searchable database of laws, policy and jurisprudence that can serve as examples and best practices to States; 
  • the development and strengthening of capacity of persons involved in asylum decision-making — including UNHCR staff, government officials, judges, lawyers, and legal aid providers — by making available relevant information for the preparation of cases, legal briefs, and court decisions; and 
  • information retrieval that can assist in advancing and monitoring implementation of protection standards; strengthening of State compliance and national protection systems; and integrating protection mainstreaming.
Who is Refworld's audience?
  • Asylum-seekers, refugees, returnees, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons,
  • Asylum decision makers,
  • Judiciary,
  • Legal practitioners,
  • Policy- and lawmakers,
  • Scholars,
  • UNHCR staff and its partners,
  • and the general public.
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Which collections are available on Refworld?

Refworld provides the following document collections:

Which document sources are included on Refworld?

UNHCR content

Refworld publishes policy and guidance issued by UNHCR as well as documentation relating to its mandate and supervisory responsibility, such as its Statute, the Refugee Convention and Protocol and the Statelessness Conventions, Executive Committee (ExCom) Conclusions, UN General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions, etc.

For more information about the information published by UNHCR, please see UNHCR Publications.

Content from other sources

Refworld also re-publishes legal and policy information from other document sources, including from international organizations, governments, judicial bodies, non-governmental organizations, academic and research institutions and the private sector.

For the purposes of Refworld, the document sources are categorized as follows:

  • Academic and Research Institutions: this category includes universities, academic and (applied) research entities, think tanks, academic journals and publishers, educational and research networks, as well as research centres and units established by the government.
  • Governmental Organizations: this category includes entities of the legislative and/or executive branches of a State system (parliament, government, immigration services, etc.) as well as entities mandated by a State but functioning independently of the government, such as human rights institutions, ombudsmen. Governmental research centres and units as well as libraries can be found under Academic and Research Institutions. This category also includes the generic document source "National Legislative Bodies / National Authorities' which is used for national / domestic primary and secondary legislation issued by any country (the country name can be found in the title of the document).
  • Inter-Governmental Organizations: organizations established by treaty or other instrument, comprising members of more than one State and/or other intergovernmental organizations. This category includes international (inter-governmental) conferences, dialogues, and platforms. The (quasi-)judicial bodies of these inter-governmental organizations have been listed separately under the category judicial bodies. Furthermore, while the United Nations is also an inter-governmental organization, it has been classified as a separate category.
  • Judicial Bodies: (Quasi-) judicial bodies at the international, regional and national level. This category also includes “Councils of States” if they perform judicial functions.
  • Non-Governmental Organizations: organizations at the international or national level, independent of governmental influence and often non-profit. This category also includes associations, societies, networks, coalitions, and federations of organizations and some inter-agency collaborations.
  • Regional Organizations: inter-governmental organizations with a regional scope.
  • United Nations: organs, (specialized) agencies, entities, commissions, and other bodies that are part of, or related to, the United Nations System.
What is the personal scope of Refworld?

Refworld includes documents relating to all persons for whom UNHCR is mandated to provide protection, solutions and assistance. This includes:

  • asylum-seekers
  • refugees
  • returnees
  • stateless persons
  • internally displaced persons (IDPs) 
Which countries are included on Refworld?

Refworld has a global coverage. The collections are not limited to information from the States Parties to the Conventions and Protocol but also includes information from non-signatory States.

For the purposes of conducting research on Refworld, the list of countries on Refworld includes UN Member States (193), UNGA non-Member States as Observers (2), non-Member States (2), non-self governing territories (17) and various (overseas) territories, regions, departments or municipalities that are part of a State or associated with a State (11). 

What is the temporal scope of Refworld?

The database contains documents starting from the late 18th century until present.

Which languages are available on Refworld?

Refworld provides the following languages:

  • Website (search functionalities and metadata): English, Spanish, Russian
  • Documents are available in many languages, including in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, etc.

Unofficial translations of documents are sometimes made available in order to increase accessibility to the information. Please do not use these documents as an official source but refer to the official / authentic language version of the document instead.