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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.




Convention Plus

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


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

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

Out of Harm's Way in Romania

Peaceful days and a safe environment is probably more than these Palestinian and Sudanese refugees expected when they were stuck in a desert camp in Iraq. Now they are recovering at a special transit centre in the Romanian city of Timisoara while their applications for resettlement in a third country are processed.

Most people forced to flee their homes are escaping from violence or persecution, but some find themselves still in danger after arriving at their destination. UNHCR uses the centre in Romania to bring such people out of harm's way until they can be resettled.

The Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Timisoara was opened in 2008. Another one will be formally opened in Humenné, Slovakia, within the coming weeks. The ETC provides shelter and respite for up to six months, during which time the evacuees can prepare for a new life overseas. They can attend language courses and cultural orientation classes.

Out of Harm's Way in Romania

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.