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Protecting refugees


The Protection Surge Capacity Project (Surge) provides crucial staff support to the United Nations refugee agency to protect refugees during crises.

Cameroon • Democratic Republic of Congo • Indonesia • Liberia • Senegal • South Africa • South Sudan • Tanzania • Thailand • Uganda

Joining forces to strengthen protection

Providing protection to refugees and other persons of concern is the core mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is also an incredibly complex and human resource-intensive activity, one in which short-term gaps in protection field staffing can have wide-ranging effects on the well-being of persons of concern. It is in light of these discrete but persistent non-emergency protection staffing gaps that UNHCR asked the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to assist in the recruitment and deployment of short to medium-term protection officers to UNHCR offices in the field.

The Surge roster  

Surge was launched in 2001 with the generous support and funding of The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration within the U.S. Department of State. The project set out to create a roster of highly qualified junior-level protection professionals who can be efficiently deployed to UNHCR field offices to meet short to medium-term protection needs in non-emergency settings.  

Recruited staffs are IRC employees but are seconded to UNHCR and report to UNHCR staffs in the field. They receive the status of “expert on mission” to the United Nations for the duration of their mission. Deployment lengths vary but all are capped at 11 months.

Hitting the ground running

A key objective of the Surge Project is to ensure all deployees possess the protection skills, knowledge, and attitude they need to be immediately effective in the field.  This is accomplished through a sometimes lengthy vetting process for the roster, which includes a written test, interview, and thorough reference check. 

A diverse and balanced workforce

IRC recruitment for the roster is based solely on merit. The project is widely advertised and applicants are vetted based on their qualifications, with minimum criteria for consideration strictly followed.  Despite the merit-based nature of recruitment the roster is incredibly diverse, with over 75 nationalities represented and with a good distribution among regions.  

Additionally, both the roster and ultimate deployments are balanced with regard to gender, with just over 50% being women.

A positive and sustainable impact

UNHCR Representatives and Senior Protection Officers have provided consistently positive feedback on the quality of Surge Deployed Members.  Terms of reference for deployments vary, but Surge staff can be found engaged in a range of protection activities including voluntary repatriation, local integration, physical security of refugees in camps, detention, registration, border monitoring, registration, protection against gender-based violence and/or sexual abuse and exploitation, child protection, protection of internally displaced persons, cluster coordination, addressing statelessness issues, and comprehensive solutions. 

A global project

Since its inception in July 2001, the Protection Surge Capacity Project has filled hundreds of deployments to over 150 UNHCR offices across 77 countries worldwide.  

IRC recruitment process

To be considered a candidate for the Surge Roster you must possess:

  • A minimum of two years of full-time hands-on experience in protection or legal work on behalf of refugees, IDPs, or asylum-seekers

  • A university degree, preferably in law, human rights, gender studies, or social work
  • Excellent knowledge of the international legal framework governing refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and/or stateless persons
  • Fluency in English and/or French or Spanish

The following are considered as assets:

  • Advanced studies (post-graduate) in law, human rights, gender studies, social work or other relevant areas
  • Previous UNHCR experience in a protection capacity

  • Extensive field experience

  • Excellent interviewing and drafting skills
  • Fluency in other relevant languages

Send a CV/resume (two pages maximum and in MSWord format, no P-11s) and cover letter/explanation of how you meet the minimum criteria and why you would like to join the roster to: SURGE [at] rescue.org (subject: SURGE%20query%20via%20Rescue.org)