A group of refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Liberia attend a cultural orientation session with the International Organization for Migration before being resettled in the United States.
© UNHCR/R. Nuri

Information on UNHCR Resettlement

1) What is refugee resettlement?

Resettlement under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State that has agreed to admit them ‐ as refugees ‐ with permanent residence status. The status provided by the resettlement State ensures protection against refoulement and provides a resettled refugee and his/her family or dependents with access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. Resettlement also carries with it the opportunity to eventually become a naturalized citizen of the resettlement country.


2) Which countries have resettlement programs?

The number of countries offering resettlement programmes has grown significantly in recent years, from 14 resettlement countries in 2005 to 37 resettlement countries worldwide in 2016 (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay).  Despite this increase, needs for resettlement continue to vastly exceed the number of available places.


3) Who qualifies for resettlement?

UNHCR supports the resettlement of individuals who are determined to be refugees under UNHCR’s mandate for whom resettlement is the most appropriate durable solution, and who fall under UNHCR’s Resettlement Submission Categories:  Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs, Survivors of Torture and/or Violence, Medical Needs, Women and Girls at Risk, Family Reunification, Children and Adolescents at Risk, and Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions.


4) How many refugees are resettled under UNHCR’s auspices each year?

The scope of resettlement has significantly expanded over the past years, as many countries have either increased their resettlement quotas or established new resettlement programs. As a result, UNHCR has substantially increased the number of submissions of cases for resettlement from 74,800 in 2012 to almost 150,000 in 2016, thereby doubling submissions in four years.






















5) What is the role of resettlement countries?

Resettlement countries have established regular refugee resettlement programs, and agree to consider a certain number of submissions by UNHCR each year. Other countries may not have a yearly program, but also resettle refugees on an ad hoc basis and may maintain special resettlement programs benefiting refugees with specific needs. Governments have the essential role of establishing and maintaining effective resettlement programs, including services and support to assist resettled refugees to integrate into their new communities.


6) How are refugees identified for resettlement?

The identification of refugees potentially in need of resettlement, and the subsequent assessment of individual cases is an ongoing, active and systematic process. It requires detailed knowledge and documentation of the refugee population and of their specific needs and vulnerabilities, and collaboration between UNHCR Protection, Community-Based Protection Services and Durable Solutions staff and implementing partners to identify and implement appropriate responses.


7) How quickly must countries make decisions?

UNHCR recognizes that different priorities should be used to help manage specific resettlement needs. Emergency cases, which typically involve immediate life-threatening situations, are expected to depart for resettlement within a period not exceeding seven days; urgent cases should depart within six weeks; and normal priority cases are to be resettled within 12 months. These benchmarks are used by UNHCR to gauge whether resettlement activities are efficient and responsive to the protection and resettlement needs of refugees.


8) How does UNHCR address concerns about security and fraud?

It is in the interest of all parties involved in resettlement to ensure that fraudulent claims and/or individuals who fall under the ambit of Article 1F of the Refugee Convention are excluded from resettlement programs globally. To this end, it should be noted that international refugee instruments do not provide a safe haven to terrorists or war criminals. The refugee definition, properly applied, leads to exclusion of people responsible for serious criminal, including terrorist acts.

UNHCR takes such matters seriously and has instituted several measures to protect the integrity of its resettlement program. UNHCR systems are designed to prevent fraud at every step, including during registration and refugee status determination, well before the assessment for resettlement begins. All UNHCR staff, irrespective of grade or function, have the responsibility of ensuring that protection activities, including resettlement, are carried out to the highest standards possible, and to prevent fraud and malfeasance in all activities.


9) What happens after refugees are resettled?

Just as with the other durable solutions, providing refugees with support and the opportunity to integrate into their new community is essential to the durability of resettlement. The status provided in the country of resettlement should ensure protection against refoulement [forced return] and provide a resettled refugee and her/his family and dependants with access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. Resettled refugees should also have the opportunity to eventually become a naturalized citizen of their new country.


10) What role do NGOs have in refugee resettlement?

Non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are involved throughout the resettlement process from identification to integration. UNHCR is pleased to be working together with NGOs to promote resettlement through advocacy efforts, as well as with direct engagement of stakeholders through training and operational capacity building. UNHCR continues to strengthen partnerships with NGOs across the continuum of resettlement activities, including through partnership agreements and the deployment of NGO personnel to UNHCR operations.


11) What about the family members of resettled refugees?

UNHCR promotes the unity of the family and urges all countries to have generous and flexible programs to facilitate family reunification. Indeed, a number of countries have special programs to facilitate family reunification of refugees without requiring the direct involvement of UNHCR. However, UNHCR has a responsibility, as part of its mandate to protect refugees, to promote and facilitate the reunification of refugee families. This means it should assist family members of a person who has been recognized as a refugee to join her or him in the country of asylum or resettlement. This applies whether or not the family members are still in their country of origin.


12) Who funds the refugee resettlement programs?

Refugee resettlement programs are essentially funded by countries. In certain situations, such as new/emerging resettlement countries, UNHCR provides financial and technical support by way of contributions from donor countries. However, in most cases, UNHCR would consider it a requirement that countries fund their respective programs. Resettlement countries are therefore expected to cover the costs associated with resettlement, such as: interview/selection missions, medical checks and pre-departure orientation, exit visas from country of asylum, travel from the country of asylum and on-arrival services in the new country of resettlement.

Statistics for 2016 are as of November 2016.