Most refugees enter Ireland as asylum seekers without assistance from UNHCR. If their fear of persecution is assessed as being well-founded through the refugee determination system conducted by the Irish asylum authorities, they are granted refugee status. 

Resettled refugees, on the other hand, are transferred 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 (the others being voluntary repatriation and integration into the host country). 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.

Since Ireland established a formal resettlement programme in 1998, almost 2,000 refugees have been resettled to Ireland. Recently, Ireland has substantially increased the number of refugees it has resettled in response to the war in Syria.  Under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, 4,000 refugees will be welcomed to Ireland under the resettlement and relocation programmes.


While resettlement involves the movement of refugees from a country outside of the EU to an EU Member State, relocation refers to the movement of refugees from one EU Member State to another. It is an intra-EU process, in which Member States help another Member State to cope with the pressure of hosting a relatively large refugee population by agreeing to receive a number of them. Relocation is an expression of internal EU solidarity and burden-sharing, particularly with those countries at the borders of Europe (Italy, Greece and Hungary) that receive a high number of refugees.

Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme

In addition to Ireland’s established refugee resettlement and relocation programmes, the government introduced a once-off private sponsorship scheme in 2014 in response to the deteriorating crisis in Syria: the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP).

Applications for SHAP could be made during a six week period between 14 March 2014 and 30 April 2014. SHAP allowed Irish citizens of Syrian birth and Syrian nationals lawfully resident in Ireland to apply to bring family members in Syria, or displaced from Syria in surrounding countries, to Ireland. Each sponsor was able to submit applications for up to four ‘of their most vulnerable family members’, while prioritising two.

The Family Reunification Unit in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) had responsibility for receiving and processing applications made under SHAP. Ireland provided permission to reside in Ireland to 119  persons utilising the SHAP scheme out of applications made on behalf of 308 persons. The SHAP beneficiaries were initially permitted to reside in Ireland for 2 years.