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Meeting on refugee resettlement opens in Geneva

News Stories, 15 June 2004

© UNHCR/B.Press
Somali Bantu refugees at Kenya's Kakuma camp before they were resettled to the United States.

GENEVA, June 15 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is holding a series of meetings in Geneva this week on refugee resettlement issues in a concerted effort to improve the efficiency and predictability of the resettlement process. The Annual Tripartite Consultations (ATC), which start today and continue on Wednesday, will cover a number of issues, including global resettlement policy and UNHCR's projected resettlement needs for 2005.

Resettlement is an option open to a relatively small number of refugees, primarily those who are especially vulnerable in their first asylum country, or have special needs that cannot be catered for there. It is also from time to time used to provide a durable solution for entire groups, or parts of groups, for whom there is no other reasonable solution in sight. Under its Convention Plus initiative, UNHCR is attempting to broaden the strategic use of resettlement for example to help solve protracted refugee situations.

The ATC meetings have been taking place annually since the mid-1990s so all the main participants can take stock of a wide range of issues linked to resettlement.

About 100 participants are expected to attend this year's meeting, including representatives of all the main countries which take an annual quota of refugees for resettlement, the European Commission, the main non-governmental organisations involved in resettlement activities, and the International Organization for Migration. The meeting will also focus on expanding the body of countries which agree to take resettlement cases. Only 16 countries are currently committed to taking a regular annual quota, with a further eight countries accepting at least a few cases during 2003.

In a separate meeting on Thursday, UNHCR and the resettlement countries will meet with the aim of collating well ahead of time clear indications of 2005 resettlement quotas. This is the first time this has happened. If the exercise proves successful, it should help simplify and streamline what has traditionally been an extremely complex planning process.

In 2003, 10 countries took more than 100 individuals each (including, for the first time, the United Kingdom). The United States was the biggest recipient, accepting 15,588 resettled refugees from their first countries of asylum, followed by Canada with 4,991, Australia with 4,354, Norway (1,391), Sweden (805), Denmark (518), Finland (451), New Zealand (443), the Netherlands (137) and the UK (119). The other countries with an annual quota of resettlement places are Iceland, Ireland, Brazil, Chile, Benin and Burkina Faso.

In all, 29,098 refugees were resettled during 2003. This was an improvement on 2002, when the aftershocks of the September 11 attacks in the United States led to the global resettlement figure dropping dramatically to 21,032 from the previous year's total of 33,098, and the 2000 high of 39,272.

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Convention Plus

International initiative aimed at improving refugee protection worldwide and to facilitate the resolution of refugee problems through multilateral special agreements.

Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

On Wednesday, Germany launched a humanitarian programme to provide temporary shelter and safety to up to 5,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A first group of 107 flew to Hanover in the northern city of Hanover. They will attend cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life over the next two years in Germany, where they will be able to work, study and access basic services. Among the group are Ahmad and his family, including a son who is deaf and needs constant care that was not available in Lebanon. The family fled from Syria in late 2012 after life became too dangerous and too costly in the city of Aleppo, where Ahmad sold car spare parts. Photographer Elena Dorfman followed the family in Beirut as they prepared to depart for the airport and their journey to Germany.

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.