UNHCR welcomes adoption of Joint EU Resettlement Programme

Briefing Notes, 30 March 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 March 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes the adoption on 29 March by the European Union (EU) of a joint resettlement programme. We think this is an important step towards a more substantive contribution by the EU and its member states to the global resettlement programme.

We hope the EU's joint programme will help to increase resettlement places in the European Union as a whole and provide solutions for a greater number of refugees who find themselves in desperate situations. Twelve EU member states currently run resettlement programmes, together contributing to less than 8 per cent of the annual resettlement places on offer around the world.

While participation in the joint programme is on a voluntary basis, increased coordination and larger financial benefits arising from the programme are likely to create more resettlement places in Europe. The programme also allows EU countries to prioritize agreed upon refugee populations for resettlement, including people from Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Myanmar and Somalia.

The joint programme will provide EU member states with additional funding for the reception and integration of resettled refugees in local communities, in particular those European countries that are considering developing a resettlement programme. Moreover, the joint programme envisages financial support for the resettlement of a greater number of highly vulnerable refugees or refugees from a larger number of priority situations.

Resettlement to third countries is a life-saving solution for vulnerable refugees who find themselves in asylum countries that are not able to offer them protection or a durable solution. Up to 80,000 refugees are resettled every year. Most go to the United States, Canada and Australia, while Europe takes in some 5,000 refugees. The adoption of the Joint EU Programme should alter that imbalance.

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EU Asylum Law and Policy

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.

Resettlement

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

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

UNHCR's Recommendations to Poland for its EU Presidency

July-December 2011. Also available in Spanish on Refworld.

Statistics

Trends on asylum and protection in EU Member States.

EU Instruments

UNHCR's regularly comments on key EU Regulations and Directives relating to asylum.

UNHCR Projects

UNHCR has numerous projects with EU Member States to improve the quality of asylum.

Judicial Engagement

UNHCR expertise helps courts interpret legislation in accordance with international asylum law.

Resettlement

The significance of resettlement as a durable solution is increasing in the EU.

Integration (refugee rights) and Family Reunification

Integration is a two-way process requiring efforts by the host societies as well as the refugees.

Border Cooperation

UNHCR is lobbying for protection-sensitive border management.

Asylum Practice

UNHCR is monitoring asylum practice and whether it is consistent with the 1951 Convention.

Practical cooperation

UNHCR is promoting and supporting cooperation with EU Member States and EASO.

Working with the European Union

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.

Groups of Concern

UNHCR expects Member States to pay particular attention to asylum seekers and refugees with specific needs.

Statelessness in Europe

UNHCR engages with EU Member States to identify and resolve the problems of stateless persons.

UNHCR Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI)

EU solidarity for rescue-at-sea and protection of Asylum Seekers and Migrants.

Related Internet Links

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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

Drifting Towards Italy

Every year, Europe's favourite summer playground - the Mediterranean Sea - turns into a graveyard as hundreds of men, women and children drown in a desperate bid to reach European Union (EU) countries.

The Italian island of Lampedusa is just 290 kilometres off the coast of Libya. In 2006, some 18,000 people crossed this perilous stretch of sea - mostly on inflatable dinghies fitted with an outboard engine. Some were seeking employment, others wanted to reunite with family members and still others were fleeing persecution, conflict or indiscriminate violence and had no choice but to leave through irregular routes in their search for safety.

Of those who made it to Lampedusa, some 6,000 claimed asylum. And nearly half of these were recognized as refugees or granted some form of protection by the Italian authorities.

In August 2007, the authorities in Lampedusa opened a new reception centre to ensure that people arriving by boat or rescued at sea are received in a dignified way and are provided with adequate accommodation and medical facilities.

Drifting Towards Italy

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