Refugee Protection Specialist – level P3 (International Consultant) at UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Operational Context

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [1] have demonstrated their leadership in refugee protection by becoming parties, to the exception of one of them, to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The 15 States have all adopted laws and/or regulations in order to make effective the exercise of the right to seek asylum on their territory and to access and enjoy solutions. Except for one of them (Cape Verde), all have established their own national procedures to carry out individual refugee status determination (RSD).

Despite these considerable efforts, some gaps remain to align with international and regional refugee protection law and standards, to maximize the best practices and to better explore the opportunities offered by the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movements of Persons, Right of Residence and right of establishment.

Impaired protection and solutions systems contribute to risky onward movements of refugees and asylum-seekers, within the region or from the region to North Africa and Europe. Protection risks en route include sexual and gender-based violence, abduction, unlawful detention, torture and death. In order to address some of the limitations in the national asylum systems and create a regional framework that would inspire not only law reform but also implementation of protection and solutions to refugees, ECOWAS with the support of UNHCR will adopt Common Minimum Standards on refugee protection and solutions.

The proposed common minimum standards seek to use (i) ECOWAS’ existing humanitarian mandate, (ii) the provisions of the Treaty and Protocols, (iii) its continuous commitment to refugee protection and solutions.

Overall, Purpose and Scope of Assignment

The envisaged directive providing common minimum standards will be developed and adopted under the leadership of ECOWAS, with the support of UNHCR.

The proposed directive providing common minimum standards present three main characteristics:

1. A profound shift in refugee protection systems: These common minimum standards would serve to promote the institutionalization of the asylum process and response through building or strengthening institutional capacity of the existing refugee commissions. While commending the prima facie recognition that is used by most of countries in the region, one can also note that some countries lack a strong tradition of individual asylum processing mechanism or structure. Consequently, asylum legislations in some countries in the region do not systematically deal with asylum processes and procedures in details, nor do they always regulate the composition and the mode of operation of eligibility commissions.

2. A focus on solutions: Common minimum standards should deal with the entire protection cycle, from the entry on the territory of asylum to the search for a durable solution, and include: (i) registration and refugee status determination procedures; (ii) rights of and available services for asylum-seekers throughout these processes, such as reception, targeted assistance and legal counselling; (iii) rights of and available services for refugees upon receiving their status, namely access to documentation, education, health care, social welfare, employment, legal counselling, justice or financial institutions. The region has a very good record of solutions best practices, and it is important to draw on the positive experience and institutionalize it across the region, hence the need for an harmonized approach. References could be made to existing ECOWAS initiatives such as the new ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card created to facilitate the freedom of movement for ECOWAS citizens within the Economic Community by serving as a passport, a residency permit, a proof of identity and other purposes depending on the Member State, for instance as a voter’s card in Senegal [2]. The principle of freedom of movement and the right to establish offer even better prospects to enhance these dimensions and so do related policies on access to education, health etc.

3. The preservation of the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum: Considering the ongoing armed conflicts in the region, including in the Central Sahel and in the Lake Chad Basin, the envisaged common minimum standards will seek to maintain the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum. Military activities are by nature incompatible with the civilian character of asylum and persons identified as fighters or combatants cannot be admitted into refugee status determination procedures unless they have genuinely and permanently renounced such activities.

In the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees, UNHCR strategic goal is the harmonization of protection and solutions to ensure refugees adequate access to their rights and the ECOWAS integration agenda and framework of freedom of movement offers a favorable context.

Duties and Responsibilities

Under the joint supervision of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa and ECOWAS, the consultant will:

  • Carry out a comprehensive desk review of existing legislations, regulations and soft law in all 15 ECOWAS States relating to refugee protection and solutions (e.g. status determination procedures, rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, available services), including through interviews with key informants;
  • Assess and present potential gaps and discrepancies between the normative frameworks and their implementation.
  • Identify gaps with regard to compliance with international and regional refugee law as well as other relevant frameworks (e.g., Global compact on refugees), including through interviews with key informants (e.g., UNHCR Country Operations, national eligibility commissions);
  • Identify and compile practical tools developed and/or used by ECOWAS states in the context of refugee protection and solution, including screening tools and forms.
  • Map out good practices within the region in line with international and regional refugee law as well as other relevant frameworks.
  • Identify good practices and lessons learnt from other regional protection and solutions schemes and regimes.
  • Define the appropriate ECOWAS legal basis, instrument and process to be used to effectively and timely adopt common minimum standards.
  • Draft a model law model on refugee protection and solutions.

Expected Deliverables

  • Compilation of all relevant laws, regulations and soft law within the Economic Community of West African States (database).
  • Report highlighting (a) gaps, (b) good practices in the region, (c) good practices from other regional asylum frameworks, (d) a set of recommendations
  • Common minimum standards on refugee protection and solutions within ECOWAS
  • A model law on asylum and solutions for refugees
  • All deliverables shall be in French and key summaries in English.

Minimum Qualifications

  • An Advanced University degree in Law, Public International Law, Political Science or Public Policy with a very good knowledge of international refugee law, regional refugee frameworks, the ECOWAS institutional framework, and trends and challenges associated with mixed movements in West Africa;
  • Demonstrated research, analytical and report writing skills, preferably in the area of refugee protection.
  • Fluency in French and English.
  • Ability to work in a multi-cultural environment.
  • minimum 10 ans dans le domaine de la protection des refugies et de la reforme du systeme asilaire.

Location and Conditions

Full-time position with 40 working hours per week.

The Individual Consultant will work remotely from home. Remote communication tools, including MS Teams and SharePoint, will be used for UNHCR to connect with the Individual consultant. The individual Consultant will undertake two visits in Dakar and field visits in 5 other countries in West Africa

The Consultant will travel to five countries in West Africa (Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Ghana) for practical field discussions in order to feed the key deliverables.

UNHCR will make all necessary administrative and logistical arrangements to facilitate these field missions. The costs of transportation and the otherwise payable DSA will be taken into account by UNHCR.

Only shortlisted candidates will be notified. No late applications will be accepted.

A written test might be included in selection process.

[1] Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Togo

[2] In 2016, Senegal was the first Member State to start issuing ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Cards, followed by Guinee-Bissau, Ghana and The Gambia (Presidency of Senegal, “ECOWAS Biometric ID Card: the 10 facts you need to know”, 5/10/2016,

How to apply

To Apply

Interested candidates should send their application to the following email address: [email protected]. Incomplete and late applications will not be accepted. Only shortlisted candidates will be notified.

Application files must include:

The UNHCR workforce consists of many diverse nationalities, cultures, languages and opinions. UNHCR seeks to sustain and strengthen this diversity to ensure equal opportunities as well as an inclusive working environment for its entire workforce. Applications are encouraged from all qualified candidates without distinction on grounds of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

UNHCR has a zero-tolerance policy against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA). SEA is unacceptable behaviour and prohibited conduct for UNHCR personnel. It constitutes acts of serious misconduct and is therefore grounds for disciplinary measures, including dismissal.

UNHCR does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process (application, interview, processing or any other fees).

The deadline for applications is 05/10/2022 midnight.