Many refugees cannot go home because of continued conflict, wars and persecution. Many also live in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. Some refugees who are particularly vulnerable due to health conditions, or because they are at a high risk of harm or exploitation, or are unable to travel far beyond the borders of their home countries. In such circumstances, UNHCR helps resettle refugees to a third country.
Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement. UNHCR is mandated by its Statute and the UN General Assembly Resolutions to undertake resettlement as one of the three durable solutions. Resettlement is unique in that it is the only durable solution that involves the relocation of refugees from an asylum country to a third country. There were 20.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world at the end of 2018, but less than one per cent were resettled that year.
Only a small number of States take part in UNHCR’s resettlement programme. In recent years the United States has been the world’s top resettlement country, with Canada, Australia and the Nordic countries also providing a sizeable number of places annually. Resettlement States provide the refugee with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals.
Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding.
Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them. Providing for their effective reception and integration is beneficial for both the resettled refugee and the receiving country. Governments and non-governmental organization partners provide services to facilitate integration, such as cultural orientation, language and vocational training, as well as programmes to promote access to education and employment.
Resettlement remains a life-saving tool to ensure the protection of those refugees most at risk. As one of the key objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, resettlement and complementary pathways are also mechanisms for governments and communities across the world to share responsibility for responding to increasing forced displacement crises and help reduce the impact of large refugee situations on host countries.
Gap between resettlement needs and UNHCR's annual submissions | 2011-2018
In 2018, UNHCR submitted the files of over 81,300 refugees for consideration by resettlement countries. By nationality, the main beneficiaries of UNHCR-facilitated resettlement programmes during this period were refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic (28,200), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (21,800), Eritrea (4,300) and Afghanistan (4,000).
Of the 81,300 submissions made, 68 per cent were for survivors of violence and torture, those with legal and physical protection needs, and particularly vulnerable women and girls. Just over half of all resettlement submissions concerned children.
A total of 82 UNHCR operations referred refugees to resettlement states in 2018. Turkey (16,000 submissions) and Lebanon (8,400) were the two largest resettlement operations and accounted for about one third of all submissions worldwide.
UNHCR estimated that 1.4 million refugees were in need of resettlement and only 81,300 places for new submissions were provided by 29 resettlement states. Although this represented an 8 per cent increase compared with 2017 (75,200), the gap between needs and actual resettlement places exceeded 90 per cent and continued to grow.
More than 55,600 individuals departed to resettlement countries with UNHCR’s assistance in 2018. The largest number of refugees left from Lebanon (9,800), followed by Turkey (9,000), Jordan (5,100) and Uganda (4,000).
Based on official government statistics provided to UNHCR, 92,400 refugees were resettled to 25 countries during 2018. Canada admitted the largest number of resettled refugees (28,100). The United States of America was second with 22,900. Other countries that admitted large numbers of resettled refugees during the year were Australia (12,700), the United Kingdom (5,800) and France (5,600).
SOURCES: UNHCR, IOM
IMAGE CREDIT: IOM