UNHCR calls for more resettlement places and better support for resettled refugees

News Stories, 4 July 2011

© UNHCR/L.Taylor
Resettled refugees from Myanmar attend a language class in the Czech Republic.

GENEVA, July 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency called on Monday for increased resettlement places for the most vulnerable among the 10.5 million refugees under its mandate.

"If states do not come forward with more places, almost 100,000 vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement will remain without any solution this year," Wei-Meng Lim-Kabaa, head of UNHCR's resettlement service, said at the opening of the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement.

"It is of paramount importance to understand that these people have no alternative solution and failure to resettle them means these people remain in an agonizing limbo," she added.

Most refugees either eventually return to their home countries or are allowed to settle in countries of first asylum. But for some, resettlement in a third country offers the only possible solution.

Currently, 80,000 resettlement places are available each year. It is estimated that 780,000 refugees will be in need of resettlement as a solution over the next three to five years, of whom 172,000 will be prioritized for next year.

UNHCR is also observing a significant drop in departures of refugees accepted for resettlement. This is due to stringent security checks and various challenges that resettlement countries face in managing their resettlement pipelines.

In 2009, almost 85,000 refugees were resettled while in 2010 the figure dropped to about 73,000. UNHCR is concerned that in 2011 the number of refugees departing for resettlement will be significantly fewer than the 80,000 places available.

This widening gap between global resettlement needs and available places, as well as the drop in actual departures, will be the focus of this week's tripartite consultations between UNHCR, governments and the non-governmental sector. The three-day meeting is being co-chaired by the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the Refugee Council USA, and UNHCR.

As well as the shortage of resettlement places and problems with the management of the resettlement process, the consultations will focus on the strategic use of resettlement to provide solutions for refugees otherwise not eligible for resettlement, in a number of priority situations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

"Resettlement can bring about positive results beyond those that benefit the individual. Resettling a considerable number of refugees, thus alleviating a burden on the country of first asylum, helps to negotiate better conditions for the refugees who stay, or new refugees who arrive," said Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

The agenda for this year's consultations also includes the promotion of measures to improve the reception and integration of refugees once they reach their new destination. UNHCR and governmental and non-governmental partners are seeking to improve help for refugees with integration on arrival in the resettlement country.

"Integration does not happen by itself but needs efforts by both the refugee and the receiving community. It also involves many others including government departments, NGOs, employers, trade unions, health care providers, and so on. We need to have all partners on board," said Dan Kosten, chairman of the Refugee Council USA.

The consultations will provide a forum for UNHCR to draw attention to the acute resettlement challenges for refugees who have fled violence and serious human rights abuses in Libya and are now stranded at the borders of Tunisia and Egypt. In the wake of the mass outflows, UNHCR launched a Global Resettlement Solidarity Initiative and mounted an emergency resettlement operation, which is unique in its volume and complexity and poses considerable challenges for all partners concerned.

UNHCR is calling on states to make available resettlement places for these refugees outside their regular quota. UNHCR is asking states to speed up their decision-taking procedures as well as their departure clearances to bring these refugees to safety as quickly as possible.

In 2010, UNHCR presented more than 108,000 refugees for resettlement. Some 73,000 refugees were resettled with UNHCR assistance. According to government statistics, 22 countries reported the admission of over 98,000 resettled refugees last year, with or without UNHCR assistance. The United States accepted the highest number, more than 71,000.

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Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

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

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Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

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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.