We were supposed to meet all verification staff at the Red Cross hall at 10:00am to begin training for the verification but due to a number of dilemmas we didn’t begin the orientation until after 11:30am.
Over 100 people gathered into the hall. Malawi government representatives, Red Cross personnel, JRS staff, translators, verification officers, photographers and others sat scattered among the benches set up before the head UNHCR field officer. With two translators, English, Swahili and Burundi speakers became fully aware of the verification task that will soon be implemented starting Monday, November 16th. Despite the fact that three tents still have yet to erect around the Red Cross property, and that computers and cameras had not been set up, we managed to do a semi quick simulation of how the tents will be organized.
Verification will require refugees to bring forth their ration cards, their status papers if possible, and their story about where they have come from, the number of people in a family, the reason for fleeing their country, etc. Each refugee will be given 5 minutes with a verification officer who will verify the accuracy of information provided by a refugee according to what already exists in the database.
The first three stations will be of utmost importance. Police officers will be present at station 1. This is the entrance to the first of three tents. The entrance receiver will check each refugee for their papers, will identify refugees that have already gone through verification by assessing their fingers for black ink marks which they receive at the end of the process and, police will provide security in the event there is disorganized chaos or be available to arrest if forged refugee status papers are identified during verification.
Station 2 will receive the refugees and briefly review the required documents and ensure the correct number of people from each household are present.
Station 3 will consist of three guides/runners; I will be one of the three keeping order at this station. We will be taking the assessed documents from station two and leading individuals and families to different verification officers. We are not to hand over any documents to anyone but the verification officers who will go through the refugees claim with them. There will be backlog at this station due to the time required to process refugee statements so we will be under pressure to move people through as quickly as possible but maintain patience and order of those waiting their turn.
The process will begin at 8am sharp and continue until 12:30pm without breaks. We will have a half hour lunch and then continue until 5:00pm. The whole process has been calculated to take two weeks which means there is no time for breaks or for slow processing. There will be a high level of stress for all people involved but it is necessary to verify claimant information of 12,000 people in order to understand the protection needs as well as any changes in family units for the purpose of receiving adequate food rations provided by the world food program.
Here’s to the next couple of high-pressure, intense work weeks with UNHCR!