memorandum by Mr Voruz, rapporteur
“An indispensable tool for an indispensable
solution.” António Guterres
1 Populations have moved around since time immemorial.
Unfortunately, migration is not always voluntary and often results
from a need to escape conflict or persecution.
2 Europe has always had a tradition of being a haven for those
seeking refuge. However, although this tradition is firmly rooted
in both customary and international law, and in the domestic legislation
of Council of Europe member States, it is being put under severe
3 In these times of crisis, it may prove challenging to uphold
international obligations to provide asylum and protection and to
maintain a spirit of generosity when local populations are suffering
from high unemployment, budget restrictions, or even an increase
in ethnic conflicts.
4 Across Europe, there has been a rise in xenophobic discourse,
and regrettably, certain political leaders are also involved, failing
to recognise the protection needs of many persons who seek asylum
in their countries, and to ensure a protection-sensitive approach
to domestic migration policies.
5 However, let there be no mistake: taking in refugees is not
something deriving solely from the good will of States or from properly
framed and quantifiable migration policies; it is an obligation
under international law. Refugees do not come willingly but are
forced to leave their country of origin because of war, civil unrest
and other unforeseeable events. These individuals have rights that
we cannot trample on with impunity.
6 While there have been commendable efforts to improve asylum
systems in Europe, including in the European Union through the Common
European Asylum System (CEAS), it must be acknowledged that the European
system is now faced with considerable challenges.
7 One of the dangers for the European asylum system is the disproportionate
burden on certain States, particularly those on the limits of the
European Union’s frontiers and especially countries bordering the Mediterranean.
8 Malta, a small country, is exposed in a disproportionate way
to arrivals of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Other larger
countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain are also affected due
to their geographical location.
The question of European solidarity vis-à-vis refugees and
asylum-seekers is therefore not an insignificant one, and this is
an issue the Parliamentary Assembly has already considered in Resolution (1820) 2011
“Asylum seekers and refugees: sharing responsibilities
in Europe”. In this text, the Assembly identified resettlement and
relocation as relevant instruments for strengthening solidarity
10 The aim of my report is to shed light on these mechanisms,
assess how these tools can prove effective for strengthening solidarity
in Europe, and propose measures for promoting them.
11 In order to prepare this report, a hearing was organised by
the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons and I
carried out a fact-finding mission in November 2013 to Bern and
Geneva to meet with key international and national actors in this
field. I would like to thank the Swiss parliamentary delegation
for its help and the various partners, including the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization
for Migration (IOM), the International Catholic Migration Commission
(ICMC), and the other national organisations and institutions whom
I met, for the valuable information provided during my visit.
and relocation: two tools to achieve the same aim – solidarity
12 I discuss in this report two tools that have different
characteristics but the same objective, which is to strengthen solidarity
between States while offering a lasting solution to people in need
of international protection.
2.1 Definitions and
distinction between the two tools
Resettlement is a tool aimed at resettling on a long-term
basis refugees unable to return home or unable to remain in their
first country of asylum. The Resettlement Handbook of the UNHCR
provides the following definition of resettlement:
“Resettlement involves the selection
and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection
to a third State which has agreed to admit them – as refugees –
with permanent residence status. The status provided ensures protection
against refoulement and provides the resettled refugee, and his/her
family or dependants with access to rights similar to those enjoyed
by nationals. Resettlement also carries with it the opportunity
to eventually become a naturalised citizen of the resettlement country.”
14 Resettlement is a historical instrument of international protection
and has been used since 1920 (in connection with some 45 000 “White
Russians” who had fled to China) and was employed to a greater extent after
the Second World War. Among the most significant measures taken,
mention should be made of the resettlement of Hungarians in the
1950s after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary; the resettlement
of members of the Asian minority expelled from Uganda in 1972; and
the resettlement of Chileans who fled their country after the 1973
coup. The largest resettlement operation ever carried out involved
the nearly 700 000 “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the 1980s.
Relocation is a recent, regional, and purely intra-European
Union measure and involves the transfer of a beneficiary of international
protection from one European Union member State to another. The
following definition of relocation can be found in documents issued
by the European Union:
of persons having the status defined by the Geneva Convention or
subsidiary protection within the meaning of Directive 2004/83/EC
[on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third
country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons
who otherwise need international protection and the content of the
protection granted], from the Member State which granted them international
protection to another Member State where they will be granted similar
protection and of persons having applied for international protection
from the Member State which is responsible for examining their application
to another Member State where their applications for international
protection will be examined.”NoteNote
16 So far, relocation is only in the pilot project stage, which
has until now only been used in the case of Malta (with refugees
being transferred from Malta to other European Union member States).
In this case, the States taking part in the so-called “EUREMA” project
have said that the measure was the result of a political decision
to show solidarity with Malta.
17 Both resettlement and relocation depend entirely on the good
will and voluntary participation of the receiving States.
18 Both resettlement and relocation enable three objectives
to be pursued: providing access to protection; ensuring a lasting
solution; and strengthening solidarity and responsibility sharing
19 The sustainability and success of any resettlement or relocation
programme largely depend upon the receiving country and their local
communities’ capacity to integrate the resettled persons.
2.3 Statistics: the
huge gap between needs and the number of places available
20 The UNHCR estimates that approximately 691 000 persons
are currently in need of resettlement, though only approximately
80 000 resettlement places are available on an annual basis. This
figure does not include the additional resettlement needs generated
by the massive outflow of refugees from Syria into neighbouring countries.
The UNHCR has identified the following priority situations
for the strategic use of resettlement: Afghans in Iran; Afghans
in Pakistan; Somalis in Kenya and Ethiopia; refugees in Turkey;
Iraqis in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; Colombian refugees; Congolese
(Democratic Republic of the Congo) refugees, and Syrian refugees in
the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Turkey. There
are also three priority situations identified to address protracted
refugee situations: Eritreans in Sudan; Bhutanese in Nepal; and
Myanmar refugees in Thailand and Malaysia.Note
In 2012, the UNHCR submitted more than 74 800 persons for
resettlement, with over 69 200 UNHCR-assisted departures to resettlement
Although the number of resettlement countries has increased
since the 1980s, there are just 27 countries worldwide that have
regular resettlement programmes.Note
24 In light of such a large gap between the annual global resettlement
needs and the corresponding number of places currently available,
we might well ask whether the current pace of solidarity is capable
of addressing the challenges faced in providing protection to those
most in need.
3 Resettlement: a
3.1 Resettlement: how
does it work?
25 UNHCR plays a key role in determining a refugee’s
need for resettlement and in ensuring that the pre-conditions for
resettlement are met.
The first precondition is that an applicant is determined
to be a refugee by the UNHCR,Note
can be made in the case of non-refugee stateless persons for whom
resettlement is considered the most appropriate durable solution,
and also for the resettlement of certain non-refugee dependant family members
to retain family unity.
27 The second precondition is that the prospects for all durable
solutions, for example voluntary repatriation and local integration,
were assessed and resettlement is identified as the most appropriate
Refugees are subsequently identified as in need of resettlement
when they are at risk in their country of refuge or have particular
needs or vulnerabilities that fall within one or more of the following
resettlement submission categories:Note
and/or physical protection needs;
- Survivors of violence and/or torture;
- Medical needs;
- Women and girls at risk;
- Family reunification;
- Children and adolescents at risk;
- Lack of foreseeable alternative durable solutions.
29 The UNHCR focuses on resettlement as a key part of a comprehensive
approach to solutions for both individuals and groups of refugees.
In some cases, resettlement can be used to help resolve protracted
refugee situations where refugees have been living in their host
countries without a durable solution for a prolonged period of time.
30 The UNHCR prioritises submissions on a normal, urgent, or
emergency basis based upon the resettlement need of the refugee(s).
For both emergency and urgent cases, it is important for States
to utilise mechanisms such as the Emergency Transit Facilities,
and specialised programmes such as Emergency Dossier Submissions,
which enable them to respond quickly to such requests. Currently,
only around 10% of the nearly 8 000 persons identified with urgent
and emergency resettlement needs each year are able to be processed
through specialised urgent/emergency resettlement programmes.
31 Emergency resettlement is challenging, while the ability of
States to respond quickly varies. Sweden and Norway, for example,
are usually able to process emergency cases within the ideal time
frames of one week. Other countries often take longer.
specific case of women and girls at risk
women refugees, in addition to experiencing the difficulties common
to all refugees, often find themselves in an even more vulnerable
Like men, they have fled persecution, but
their flight has made them even more vulnerable. Many families are separated
during their flight and many women are deprived of their traditional
(family) support and are then faced with new responsibilities that
they have never had to take on before. Many women have fled with
their children and older members of their family, while their husbands
have stayed on (for example, in order to continue to look after their
cattle). They are also exposed to additional protection problems
specific to their gender (rape, sexual abuse, exploitation, even
forced marriage, to name but a few). This type of abuse is widely
reported, especially as far as female Syrian refugees in Jordan
are concerned. This was confirmed by Mr Stefan Schennach (Austria,
SOC) who reported back to the Migration Committee (20 November 2013,
Paris) on his visit to Jordanian camps in July 2013. In the camps,
it is claimed that a trade in girls, who are sold for marriage (from
the age of 10 or 11), has been established.
such as Norway (60% of its resettlement quota is allocated to vulnerable
women and girls), have introduced specific resettlement programmes
for women and girls at risk.NoteNote These programmes enable them to be admitted
as a matter of priority and their departure can be quickly organised.
32 Those identified as being in need of resettlement
by the UNHCR are submitted to potential resettlement States. These
States examine the submission either on a dossier basis (based on
the UNHCR’s Resettlement Registration Form (RRF) and supporting
documentation), or on the basis of an interview with the applicant(s) through
selection missions in the countries of first asylum. Although dossier
processing enables less costly and expedited decisions and departures
as well as a solution for refugees who may be difficult to access
due to the security situation in their host countries, selection
missions are most often the receiving States’ method of choice.
33 In most cases, the IOM organises the logistics of the transfer
(exit clearances, pre-embarkation and transport arrangements, transit
and arrival assistance, operational and medical escorts, when necessary)
for all resettlement countries and carries out pre-departure arrangements
(including pre-departure health assessments and pre-departure information
briefings/cultural orientation sessions) at the request of the destination
34 It is essential that there is good co-ordination between all
actors throughout this whole process. The UNHCR’s Annual Tripartite
Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) and the Working Group on Resettlement (WGR)
are the primary annual meetings for furthering the resettlement
agenda, with resettlement States, the UNHCR, the IOM, international
organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) participating
in these fora.
35 Since 2012, Core/Contact Groups have been established, by
the ATCR/WGR process, to focus on a strategic and collaborative
approach to resettlement for the priority situations identified
by the UNHCR (see paragraph 21). Contact Groups typically comprise
the UNHCR, the IOM and selected resettlement countries, and are
chaired by a participating country. Sweden, for instance, chairs
the Contact Group for the resettlement of Afghans from Iran as well
as the newly formed Contact Group on Syrian refugees.
36 Indeed, a Core Group on Syrian Resettlement, chaired by Sweden
was recently inaugurated on 12 December 2013 in Geneva. The UNHCR
is also co-ordinating a Resettlement Working Group comprised of the
host countries neighbouring Syria and the wider region to exchange
information and identify areas for co-operation on resettlement
and humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees.
The European Commission-funded project called “Linking-In
EU Resettlement”, which was jointly co-ordinated by the IOM, the
UNHCR and the ICMC, played a strong role in bringing together all
relevant policy makers and practitioners involved in resettlement
and integration of resettled refugees through the medium of the
“European Resettlement Network” (ERN). The ERN is an inclusive network
that supports the development of resettlement in Europe by connecting
a variety of actors involved in refugee resettlement. Network members have
a shared commitment to refugee resettlement and refugee protection,
to ensuring the provision of durable solutions for refugees, and
to ensuring refugees resettled to Europe receive integration support
that provides them with the tools necessary to become fully participating
citizens. The central tool of the ERN is its website,Note
which provides a platform to exchange
information and expertise on resettlement priorities, processes
and practices. The ERN also hosts the campaign “Resettlement Saves
Lives” mobilising support for resettlement in Europe and promoting
the resettlement of 20 000 refugees in Europe each year by 2020.
As testified by an expert at the hearing organised by the
Committee on Migration, co-ordination at the domestic level in resettlement
countries is critical to ensuring the successful reception and integration
of resettled refugees.Note
In view of the key importance of
working together at the local level, the “SHARE Project” was initiated
in March 2012. This project works towards the creation of a network
of regional and local authorities (cities, municipalities and regions)
as well as civil society partners working in the field of resettlement,
protection and integration. SHARE is co-ordinated by the ICMC in
partnership with the UNHCR, the City of Sheffield and other actors,
and co-financed by the European Commission, as part of the wider
ERN. This forum allows for sustainable dialogue, capacity building,
and the sharing of best practices on reception and integration.Note
39 In 2013, and continuing in 2014, the ERN entered a new phase
of development under a joint IOM, UNHCR and ICMC project entitled
“Strengthening the response to emergency resettlement needs”. This project
supports the existing ERN and, as such, further promotes co-operation
amongst different stakeholders and builds their capacity to increase
and improve resettlement efforts. It also focuses on raising awareness
of emergency resettlement.
3.2 Practice in Council
of Europe member States: Europe bottom of the class where resettlement is
40 Europe has a very real opportunity to step up its
solidarity efforts and to take measures to enhance its capacity
to receive a larger number of resettled refugees in a dignified
manner. It is a fact that Europe’s reception capacities via resettlement
are far from being overfilled. To give the example of Switzerland,
I am convinced, after my contacts with the authorities, civil society
and international organisations, that there is capacity for a greater
number of refugees to be resettled.
41 Of the 27 countries engaged in the resettlement of refugees
in 2013, 20 were European. Although European States comprise nearly
two thirds of those countries offering resettlement places annually,
they provided just 5 500 places out of over 80 000 resettlement
places available globally in 2013. The United States alone provides
two thirds of the resettlement places made available in the world
Nevertheless, things are moving in the right direction: in
the last fifteen years, more European countries have developed resettlement
programmes and others are prepared to consider resettlement submissions
from the UNHCR. Some States have set up resettlement programmes
and others offer places on an ad hoc basis or through specialised
such as Hungary, Romania and Spain have recently established the
legal basis for resettlement, and several other countries have also
responded favourably to emergency and urgent resettlement submissions
from the UNHCR. However, the figures are still low, and there is
considerable scope for further progress.
Positive developments include the establishment in 2013 by
the European Union of a Joint Resettlement Programme that provides
member States with financial incentives to accept resettled refugees.
Through the as yet to be adopted Asylum, Migration and Integration
Fund (AMIF), further provision has been made for a Union Resettlement
Programme, which will see continued financial incentives made available
to member States for the resettlement of refugees from 2014-2020.Note
More recently, the European Council highlighted the “importance
it attaches to resettlement for persons in need of protection and
to contributing to global efforts in this field” in its 19/20 December
This followed the communication from
the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the work
of the Task Force Mediterranean of 4th December 2013,Note
which identified the use of resettlement
as a priority action to find durable solutions for those attempting
to access asylum in Europe through the Mediterranean.
4 Relocation: a tool
used in the European Union
The European Pact on Immigration and Asylum of 2008
provides: “For those Member States which are faced with specific
and disproportionate pressures on their national asylum systems,
due in particular to their geographical or demographic situation,
solidarity shall also aim to promote, on a voluntary and co-ordinated basis,
better reallocation of beneficiaries of international protection
from such Member States to others, while ensuring that asylum systems
are not abused. In accordance with those principles, the Commission,
in consultation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees where appropriate, will facilitate such voluntary and
co-ordinated reallocation. Specific funding under existing European
Union financial instruments should be provided for this reallocation,
in accordance with budgetary procedures.”Note
In 2009, a pilot project (EUREMA) to help Malta, which is
facing disproportionate migratory pressure owing to its geographical
location, was established in the European Union and, in close co-operation
with the Maltese authorities, is implemented by the IOM. From 2002
to 2011, 12 874 asylum applications were made in Malta. Of the individuals
concerned, 346 were granted refugee status, 6 655 were granted subsidiary
protection and 5 290 had their applications rejected. Up to October
2013, 2 026 asylum applications were made in Malta.Note
Relocation has been carried out under phases I and II of the
EUREMA project, with 12 member States participating, as well as
under bilateral agreements established between Malta and certain
other member States (eight in all).Note
In 2011, 227 persons were relocated
under the EUREMA project and, according to a report published by
the European Asylum Support Office (EASO),Note
356 places were pledged in 2012 (including
under bilateral agreements). According to the UNHCR, 350 beneficiaries
of international protection were resettled/relocated from Malta
in 2013 (as at 20 November 2013), with approximately 2 052 people resettled/relocated
from Malta since 2005.Note
EUREMA is an example of solidarity in practice. While the
Maltese authorities had higher expectations, the responsibility
sharing efforts made by the receiving States should nonetheless
be applauded. However, it should also be pointed out that the United
States has resettled more than 1 118 beneficiaries of international from
Malta between 2007 and 2012.Note
49 Although it cannot replace resettlement programmes, this relocation
pilot project represents an embryonic example of European solidarity.
It is the result of political will which can be built upon.
5 What are the obstacles
to resettlement and relocation?
5.1 States’ reticence
50 In the 1970s and 1980s, a large-scale programme was
carried out to resettle tens of thousands of “boat people” fleeing
Vietnam, but there was considerable disillusionment when the number
of people in the refugee camps rose from 31 394 to 65 349 between
1986 and 1989, even though the situation in Vietnam had not significantly
deteriorated. Those involved were no longer only refugees but there
were also a growing number of economic migrants. States, seeing
in this a disguised migration programme, withdrew from the process,
and resettlement took a back seat.
51 The risk of creating a pull factor should not be ignored and,
even though the UNHCR takes all necessary precautions to prevent
this from happening, it remains a legitimate concern of States.
52 Pull factors were also observed in the recent case of refugees
fleeing from Libya for the Choucha camp in Tunisia and Salloum in
Egypt. The volume of refugees entering these two countries, which
were undergoing their own political transitions at the time, was
such that, between March and December 2011, the UNHCR systematically
submitted referred refugees for possible resettlement from Choucha
and Salloum. From Tunisia alone, a total of 3 500 refugees were
resettled in 2013. The success of this resettlement programme, however, did
eventually attract more refugees and migrants, thereby necessitating
a cut-off date for automatic submission for resettlement by the
UNHCR to prevent a more pronounced pull factor.
53 In the case of Vietnam, the introduction of a screening process
to identify and resettle only those with international protection
needs ultimately helped resolve the pull factor issues, and the
number of arrivals then reduced quickly.
In order to avoid creating pull factors and unduly influencing
migration flows, the UNHCR gives priority, as far as is possible,
to a regional approachNote
resettlement in order to dissuade onward movements. For example,
the fact that the resettlement of Iraqis and of Syrians occurs from
all countries in the MENA helps dissuade refugees from taking risks
associated with moving from one country to another in the region
in the hopes of resettlement.
5.2 Security issues
and risk of fraud
55 Resettlement may provoke a desire for financial gain
and it is crucial to combat fraud and corruption in this process.
As pointed out in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, fraud can occur
at practically every stage of the process (during registration,
at the time of refugee status determination, and during assessments
for durable solutions).
56 Fraud may consist of false declarations, identity fraud or
family composition fraud (claiming a family situation more favourable
for resettlement), document falsification, exploitation, etc. It
is clear that such practices, if they remain undetected, tolerated
(for instance, encouraged by corrupt officials) or go unpunished, harm
the entire resettlement process by discrediting its very principle.
In order to guarantee the credibility of the system, the UNHCR drew
up a Resettlement Anti-Fraud Plan of Action in 2004.
57 Anti-fraud measures have now been incorporated into the standard
operating procedures for all resettlement operations. These safeguards
reduce fraud, protect refugees from victimisation, protect innocent staff
from false allegations and contribute to the overall credibility
and effectiveness of the UNHCR’s resettlement activities.
5.3 Limited logistical
58 Clearly, the priority is to have enough places available
for persons requiring resettlement. However, if resettlement is
to be an effective instrument, the necessary logistics must also
be set up. The procedures and criteria set out by resettlement States
should therefore not be so cumbersome that they delay the resettlement process
for persons in need of urgent protection and solutions.
59 The speed of the response can be paramount, as can be seen
today with Syrian refugees. In this respect, the Core Group on Resettlement
of Syrian Refugees, comprised of resettlement States and chaired by
Sweden, was formed to examine strategies to increase the number
of pledges and to speed up the process of resettlement. This work
is done in response to and simplify procedures, and is timely in
light of the need to situate resettlement within the larger emergency
60 As mentioned previously, the European Union-funded project
“Strengthening the response to emergency resettlement needs”, which
continues to support the work the European Resettlement Network,
is also contributing towards the need for States to better respond
to emergency situations such as the Syrian refugee crisis, and has
also been involved in improving the timeliness of responses.
5.4 Restrictive criteria
defined by States
61 Certain resettlement States have adopted restrictive
criteria when considering resettlement submissions. For example,
some select refugees on the basis of the so-called “integration
potential” criteria. In this case, States do not select individuals
with mental health problems, those with HIV or a history of drug abuse,
illiterates or elderly persons, or refugees of certain nationalities.
This undeniably limits access to resettlement, especially for the
62 In view of the often urgent nature of the situation, coupled
with the cumbersome procedure to prepare and process resettlement
cases, it is important for States to be inclusive and flexible in
their consideration of resettlement cases and to bear in mind that
the need for protection and particular consideration for vulnerability are
the key criteria for resettlement and relocation.
63 According to the UNHCR, resettlement is based on a humanitarian
approach and States should refrain from limiting acceptance of refugees
with “high needs” and focusing on “integration potential” above
5.5 Ability to integrate
64 Resettlement States attach considerable importance
to the ability of resettled persons to integrate. As the IOM’s Director
General has said repeatedly, resettlement carries with it a responsibility
to resettle refugees to a better place where the prospect for reaching
their full potential is high. It goes without saying that resettlement
cannot be considered entirely successful if it is not accompanied
by successful integration into the new host society. The first few
days and months in the resettled refugees’ life in their new country
can be critical to the success of their integration.
However, successful integration is a two-way process. Refugees
are better able to integrate when resettlement States have in place
measures to ensure sufficient support for their successful integration.
In order to better facilitate the integration of refugees, the UNHCR
launched “The Integration of Resettled Refugees: Essentials for
Establishing a Resettlement Programme and Fundamentals for Sustainable Resettlement
on the occasion of the 2013 Annual
Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement.
In order to facilitate the integration of those who have been
resettled in their new host country, these individuals are given
by national authorities, often in co-operation with the IOM and
ICMC, preparatory pre-departure cultural orientation courses. The
trainers are usually bi-cultural and share linguistic and/or cultural familiarity
with both the refugees’ country of origin and that of the receiving
society. The content of the orientation varies, as it is tailored
to the resettlement realities of the country of destination, but
usually consists of general information on the travel process, the
new host country (legal framework, civic participation), common
integration challenges (attitudes and values), and basic language
classes. Moreover, efforts are made to manage the expectations of
the refugees. The level of information they receive often also depends
on the amount of time available between the acceptance of their
case and their subsequent departure for resettlement (which could
take up to several months).Note
There are several examples of good practices for cultural
orientation programmes among member States. NorwayNote
for example has, since 2003, used
exclusively bi-cultural or cross-cultural trainers in delivering
the programmes. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have developed
cultural orientation curricula and training materials.Note
5.6 Ability to co-ordinate
68 Good co-ordination and information amongst the responsible
national authorities allow for the successful integration of resettled
69 Decisions to accept submissions for resettlement are made
at the national level in co-ordination with international organisations.
Yet, there are many other actors that can contribute to the success
of the resettlement programmes, mainly with regard to the reception
and integration of the resettled refugees. Too often, civil society,
local authorities and the media are not involved or made aware of
the process or decision-making, or the communication is limited
to a minimum. Yet, if you involve those stakeholders, you build
a sense of ownership and create new links to optimise the process
(for instance, between medical services, schools and local authorities).
70 Civil society and local authorities have the capacity to welcome
and accompany resettled refugees by offering language courses, medical
services, social assistance, housing, education and professional
training, etc. Civil society has the experience and knowledge to
find innovative solutions to create a positive and welcoming environment
that can benefit and complement the efforts of local authorities.
For this, the dialogue needs to be created.
71 Agreed budgets need to be provided to local authorities with
proper guidance on how to use them. A transparent and monitored
system encourages political leaders, administrators and inhabitants
to see resettlement as a positive tool for solidarity and provide
informed public support to the national commitments. It also helps
to avoid animosity and unfounded fear in the local community.
72 International organisations such as the IOM, the UNHCR and
international NGOs such as the ICMC continue through the establishment
and co-ordination of the European Resettlement Network and the SHARE project
to be supportive of national programmes in raising awareness of
resettlement and sharing best practices.
73 Independence and empowerment of resettled refugees can only
be attained through such dialogue and support of all stakeholders.
6 Times of crisis
and the use of enhanced and temporary measures
74 Although the UNHCR focuses on advanced planning in
order to make a comprehensive assessment of resettlement needs,
unexpected crises will always remain the unknown factor in the equation.
The UNHCR is frequently faced with this reality and therefore has
to consider enhanced or emergency resettlement, as well as other
measures that can provide more immediate protection to the most
vulnerable in times of large-scale forced displacement.
75 Given these challenges, there is a pressing and immediate
need to make greater efforts to seek out innovative methods in order
to better respond to emergencies, including enhanced or group resettlement, humanitarian
admission, and family reunification or the admission of relatives,
as well as to make use of Emergency Transit Facilities, videoconferencing
for resettlement interviews, and in-country or cross-border transfer
mechanisms that enable resettlement countries to access refugees
who are in insecure areas.
76 The UNHCR and IOM signed tripartite agreements with the Governments
of Romania (2008) and Slovakia (2009) to establish Emergency Transit
Centres (ETC). The ETCs offer the possibility for refugees to be
evacuated to safety while their cases are processed for onward resettlement,
particularly when resettlement countries have difficulty accessing
refugees due to security or other considerations.
77 The ETC in Romania (Timisoara) can accommodate 200 refugees,
and the ETC in Slovakia (Humenné) 150 refugees. They usually accommodate
refugees for a period of six months. In 2012, both ETCs facilitated the
evacuation of 150 and 168 refugees respectively for onward resettlement,
and were utilised by the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Germany,
and the United Kingdom.
78 Could we not consider the use of various measures to relocate
Syrian refugees at risk to safe third countries, or large-scale
resettlement on the basis of a simplified procedure? The precedent
exist: during the war in the former Yugoslavia, European countries
agreed to the resettlement of refugees, albeit on the basis of temporary
79 As Syria’s neighbouring countries are currently hosting more
than 2 million Syrian refugees, the UNHCR has already announced
the goal of providing up to 30 000 Syrian refugees with resettlement,
humanitarian admission, or other forms of admission (such as family
reunification) by the end of 2014 to express solidarity with these
host countries. In pledging in addition to their current resettlement
quotas, States would help to ensure that resettlement opportunities
would still be available for vulnerable refugees in other parts
of the world.
The UNHCR has also indicated that, to date, the total official
and unconfirmed pledges from 20 countries now stands at more than
18 879 places for 2013/2014. An unprecedented majority of these
pledges comes from European States.Note
The UNHCR has stated that it remains
confident that the 30 000 goal will be met by the end of the year
through a significant number of submissions to the United States.
81 Of note, is the offer by Germany to take 10 000 Syrian refugees
under a Temporary Humanitarian Admission Programme. Amongst others,
Sweden has pledged to receive 1 200 Syrian refugees and Norway 1
000, while Austria and France each pledged to receive 500 Syrian
refugees. It is critical that European States continue to take the
lead in keeping up the momentum created by considering further pledges
of places for Syrian refugees on a multi-annual basis towards the
UNHCR’s goal of securing resettlement and other forms of admission
for an additional 100 000 Syrian refugees in 2015/2016.
Other innovative solutions to respond to the urgent humanitarian
needs triggered by the Syrian crisis have included family reunification,
and namely the admission of relatives who may not be eligible under
the traditional family reunification programmes. For instance, 15
federal States in Germany have launched their own reception programmes
for Syrian nationals with relatives in Germany. Switzerland has
also provided recently temporary visas to help Syrians reunite with
relatives. I regret that this programme was unfortunately only for
a limited period (September to November 2013).Note
Alongside its regular resettlement programme that resettles
750 refugees per year, the United Kingdom has created the vulnerable
persons relocation scheme for Syrian refugees, in close consultation
with the UNHCR.Note
7 Conclusions and
approach to follow to strengthen solidarity
84 Under no circumstances should resettlement and relocation
be seen as migration management tools. They are humanitarian tools
and their primary aim is to bring about a lasting improvement in
the protection of refugees. Those submitted for resettlement are
those who fall within the UNHCR mandate and within one or more of
the UNHCR’s resettlement submission categories.
85 Both globally and at European Union level, States’ participation
in resettlement or relocation programmes provides significant support
for countries of first asylum and sends the message that these countries
are not being left alone to shoulder the responsibility of protecting
refugees. It is also a message to encourage them to maintain an
open admissions policy and to avoid the risk of push-backs.
86 If European States strengthened their commitment to resettlement,
they could make a significant contribution to increasing international
protection and to solidarity with countries that host the vast majority (80%)
of the world’s refugees.
87 As I have highlighted, of the approximately 80 000 resettlement
places provided on average each year, European countries account
for just over 5 500 places. The remainder are mainly provided by
the United States, Canada and Australia. European reception capacities
need to be enhanced to receive an increased number of resettled
88 Some encouraging developments are taking place. More and more
European countries have undertaken to provide resettlement places
each year, and the European Union’s pilot relocation programme, as
well as its Joint Resettlement Programme, are steps, albeit tentative,
in the right direction.
89 The Syrian crisis provides an opportunity for – and, indeed,
imposes a duty on – Europe to go beyond fine words and show solidarity
in practice. The tools and mechanisms are there, so let us make
use of them! I urge all European States on an individual level to
provide resettlement or humanitarian admission places for Syrian
refugees and to consider together immediate measures to enable a
larger number of these refugees to obtain protection in Europe.