In a camp, registration and profiling are fundamental tools for effective camp management. They provide the basis for planning programme, providing assistance and ensuring protection in the camp. When humanitarian activities are conducted in camps it is necessary to both identify individuals eligible for assistance and to determine the size and characteristics of the population living in the site.



Registration is the systematic collection, recording and updating of data about individuals and their households to ensure that the person can be identified in the future for the purposes jointly agreed by stakeholders.

Registered population will often be perceived as the group of individuals considered the target for the provision of protection and facilitation of solutions, as well as the delivery of humanitarian or long-term recovery assistance. It is therefore important to define registration objectives in the larger context of humanitarian action. Thus, information is collected for specific purposes such as confirmation of identity, to provide protection, to ensure assistance delivery or for individual case management.

The purpose of registration and how the collected information is to be used, determine the data to be collected. Data may include information about individuals or families, such as names, dates of birth or gender, as well as other characteristics such as needs, locations, capacities and protection issues.


Effective Registration and Profiling Involves Defining:

  • objectives: why?
  • methodology: which?
  • responsibilities: who does what?
  • standard operating procedures: how?


Registration also assists in identifying groups at risk and their specific needs. Specific protection programmes such as tracing, legal representation and family reunification can only be adequately implemented if reliable and up-to-date data are available.

Registration needs to be a continuous process that records and updates essential information that changes over time, such as births, deaths, marriage, divorce, new arrivals and departures. It is also a resource-intensive and expensive exercise. Mechanisms for keeping registration records updated and regular scheduling of full registration exercises should be part of initial planning considerations. Registration data can be aggregated to understand the overall characteristics of the registered population.

While the basic definition of registration is the same, different spheres of law regulate these obligations with respect to refugees and asylum seekers on the one hand and internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the other.

Registration in a Refugee Context

Recognition as an asylum seeker or refugee accords an individual the rights and responsibilities described in international and humanitarian law instruments such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and subsequently enacted regional refugee instruments. Registration is usually the first step in the process of recognising refugee status, either under group or individual procedures. The role of registration is to capture the entire population consisting of refugees or asylum seekers, even though they may not be in need of material assistance, as it relates to their legal status. Registration helps to ensure:

  • the principle of non-refoulement: the protection of refugees from being returned or expelled to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened
  • protection from arbitrary arrest and forcible recruitment
  • access to basic rights, assistance and services, including family reunification
  • assistance in the identification and delivery of durable solutions
  • identification of communities, helping them stay together and contributing to community cohesion and organisation
  • identification of opportunities for capacity building among the displaced population
  • communication with displaced populations and ensuring their participation in operational planning, response and monitoring.

The registration of refugees is the responsibility of the host government concerned. In some situations, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offers operational support under its mandate to provide international protection and to seek durable solutions.

In most cases, documentation will be issued to refugees and asylum seekers as a result of registration. These are documentation that confirms:

  • the status of the refugee, such as an identity card or attestation letter
  • entitlements for items such as a ration card or health card.

These should be separated documents serving different purposes.

Registration in an IDP Context

IDPs are nationals or habitual residents in the country of displacement, and have rights in the same manner as other nationals who are not displaced. Therefore, registration policies and practices for refugees are not universally applicable in IDP situations. The government is responsible for determining whether or not to register IDPs and for what purpose. In some IDP situations, the government may determine criteria for giving IDPs a distinct status and may pass laws regulating who is an IDP and what rights and services they can expect. The international community has a role in working with the government to make sure that the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are respected. IDP registration can serve multiple purposes. It may be used to:

  • identify IDPs falling within the scope of the humanitarian operation, based on specific objectives or needs
  • identify persons in need of and/or receiving assistance
  • contribute to camp planning and layout
  • identify communities, helping them stay together and contributing to community cohesion and self organisation
  • identify opportunities for capacity building among the displaced population
  • support communication with displaced populations and ensure their participation in operational planning, response and monitoring.

Registration and profiling in a camp setting can also be used to identify capacities and skills among the displaced population. This information can be especially useful to the Camp Management Agency in the planning of community participation, including identifying those who could be involved in camp governance, technical projects, camp committees, working groups and training.

Many different actors will have a need for the information collected during registration. Therefore, it is essential for the Camp Management Agency to coordinate registration activities and to ensure that IDPs are not subjected to multiple registrations by different agencies. Coherence regarding the numbers of persons and their needs also remains important. In general, while overall IDP registration is the responsibility of the state concerned, various agencies will register or obtain data for a subset of the population for their specific mandate and/or needs.



Profiling is a method of collecting the characteristics of the population in an aggregated manner which can be generalised to the entire population. The objective of profiling is primarily to obtain baseline information and subsequent overview of the population for a specific purpose, such as better targeting of assistance or understanding of dynamics among the communities. As indicated above, registration data can be a basis for obtaining a profile of a population. However, if the objective is to obtain the general characteristics of the population only, methods less costly than registration can be used such as estimation or surveys, key informant interviews or participatory assessments.

Key clusters and agencies have endorsed Guidance on Profiling Internally Displaced Persons, which defines profiling as “the collaborative process of identifying internally displaced groups or individuals through data collection, including counting and analysis, in order to take action to advocate on their behalf, to protect and assist them and, eventually, to help bring about a solution to their displacement”. The methods for profiling range from desk review, estimation, surveys, registration and focus group discussions to key informant interviews.

Refugee Profiling

Registration does not exclude other profiling methods to be used in the camp by the Camp Management Agency, as well as those providing protection, assistance and other services to better understand the population. Profiling is often based on registration data when such data exists. However, other profiling methods are also used, depending on the situation or in order to obtain a more in-depth analysis of the dynamics within the refugee population. Age, gender and diversitysensitive participatory assessment may be one of the ways to gather additional and in-depth information on a particular subset of the population.

IDP Profiling

An IDP profile is an overview of an IDP population that shows, at a minimum:

  • the number of displaced persons, disaggregated by age and gender, even if they are only estimates
  • location(s), place of origin and place of displacement.

This is understood to be core data. Wherever possible, additional information might include, but not be limited to:

  • humanitarian needs
  • protection concerns
  • cause(s) and patterns of displacement.

National authorities are the first responsible for providing protection and assistance to IDPs within their jurisdiction, and should lead a profiling exercise, whenever possible. Humanitarian stakeholders should play a supporting role, if necessary.