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.