Many refugees cannot go home because of continued conflict, wars and persecution. Many also live in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. In such circumstances, UNHCR helps resettle refugees to a third country.
Resettlement is the transfer of refugees 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. 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. There were 17.2 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world at the end of 2016, but less than one per cent were resettled that year.
Only a small number of States take part in UNHCR’s resettlement programme. In recent years the United States has been the world’s top resettlement country, with Canada, Australia and the Nordic countries also providing a sizeable number of places annually.
Resettlement States provide the refugee with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals.
In 2016, UNHCR submitted the files of over 163,200 refugees for consideration by resettlement countries. By nationality, the main beneficiaries of UNHCR-facilitated resettlement programmes during this period were refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic (77,300), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (22,800), Iraq (12,800) and Somalia (10,800).
Departures increased as well during the course of 2016, as more than 126,200 individuals departed to resettlement countries with UNHCR’s assistance. The largest number of refugees left from Lebanon (19,500), followed by Jordan (19,300), Turkey (15,600), Kenya (9,300) and the United Republic of Tanzania (8,900).
Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them.
Providing for their effective reception and integration is beneficial for both the resettled refugee and the receiving country. Governments and non-governmental organization partners provide services to facilitate integration, such as cultural orientation, language and vocational training, as well as programmes to promote access to education and employment.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life
Sweden: Mahmoud's Escape
Haunted by war, a Syrian family gets a new start in Canada
Exchanging ideas on resettlement partnerships, June 2015.
Refworld contains a wealth of documents, including statistics and legal, policy and background information.
UNHCR's key reference tool on global resettlement policy and practice.