Migrant Safe Referral

Safe referral is the process of directing a migrant to a trusted partner when meeting their needs is beyond the expertise or scope of work of the RCRC.

Because HSPs cannot meet all the needs of migrants, referral is often a core service. Where capacity is low, service referral may be an HSP’s main work. Seek experienced support in establishing your system. Referral can be complex, particularly for protection issues.

Egypt RC
Safe referral services:

Health support

Physical rehabilitation




Material or financial assistance

Mental health/psychosocial support

Protection services: case management, health, legal, and social services

Referrals should be made to appropriate partners, ideally ones that share the RCRC approach to:

Partners should not seek to encourage, discourage or prevent migration. Services should be available to all migrants, irrespective of legal status. Partners should not be involved in the implementation of government migration policy or perceived as such by migrants.

Partners should practice data minimisation, collecting only what is strictly necessary, and have adequate measures in place to protect data that is collected.

Partners should have a code of conduct and vetting procedures for their staff and volunteers. They should have clear standards for safety on their premises.

Partners should be accountable to service-users, and have responsive feedback and complaints mechanisms, particularly for sensitive complaints.

Partners should take a survivor-centered approach based on guiding principles of confidentiality, privacy, non-discrimination, respect, and best interest of the child

Sudanese RC

Sudanese Red Cross

A review of services for migrants in Khartoum found that a local organisation providing services to survivors of sexual violence did not accept irregular migrants. This was because their partner, UNHCR, provided funding only for refugees. However, the group  was willing to support irregular migrants – they just lacked the funding. RCRC HSPs can identify and remove such barriers by trying to negotiate an expansion of eligibility criteria with the funding partner, or by paying the fees for irregular migrants on a case-by-case basis. 

Formal referral procedures should be established with relevant agencies and public services, and be guided by the following approach: 

Map available services and agencies supporting migrants across all key sectors.

Reach out to partners to find out what they do and how they work.

Sign an agreement, MOU or protocol with agencies/ public services to define how you will work together and in what areas. Identify any fees and how billing will work.

When dealing with suspected cases of child protection, SGBV or trafficking in persons, you should seek specialist guidance before taking action or referring, to avoid doing harm.

Uganda, Kyegegwa, 10.11.2020
Displacements affect children in different ways. At Kyangwale refugee settlement URCS volunteers make 50 home visits every month. the sit with families and discuss how needs of children can be addressed.

Informed consent means telling an individual concerned all of the relevant facts about what options are available and what will happen if they choose to follow each course of action. It must be disclosed at the time consent is given and the affected person must be able to evaluate (by asking questions and receiving information) and understand the consequences of an action. Informed consent can be given by a person 18 years or older. A child 17 years or younger may require informed consent to be given through a guardian or another party. 

See Protection, Gender and Inclusion in Emergencies Toolkit for details.

When referral is needed:


Consult with the migrant to ensure they are happy to explore referral, outlining what you will tell about them, to whom, and how that information will be managed.


Contact the service provider to confirm availability, eligibility, and any fees.


Explain to the person being referred what services they will receive and any conditions or limitations. Describe as clearly as possible what they should expect: where do they go? Who do they talk to? What languages do they speak? Will there be any fees? What information do/don’t they have to provide? If needed and possible, have someone accompany them.

Obtain voluntary and informed consent

Obtain voluntary and informed consent before sharing information. Remember - the person has the right to refuse referral or to their mind.

Make the referral according to the referral protocol.

Make the referral according to the referral protocol. Accompany the person, where relevant.

Follow up

Follow up periodically with referral agencies and with migrants to ensure referrals are running smoothly and as agreed. 


Ensure documentation is complete and safe storage of all personal data

Bulgarian RC

Referral Pathway Information

  • Sector and what services are provided, e.g. medical: primary health care, diagnostics;
  • Any restrictions as to who can access services, specific criteria or target groups; 
  • Address and contact information, including specific names if one person or department manages referrals from your HSP
  • Opening hours;
  • Any costs, restrictions or specifications. For example, any specialist services, geographical restrictions, languages spoken, etc.
Capture your referral pathway. Ensure it is accessible to anyone that needs it
  • Ensure you update your referral pathway regularly, particularly if services are project-based.
  • Bear in mind that some services or organisations may make changes more frequently than others.
  • Schedule routine updates.

Remember the importance of data protection and seek specialist support in putting your system in place.

Ideally, ensure referrals are entered directly into an electronic system using a secure system such as KoBo or ODK.

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