Complementary pathways for admission to third countries
Complementary pathways are safe and regulated avenues for persons in need of international protection that provide for a lawful stay in a third country where the international protection needs of the beneficiaries are met.
For example, one avenue could be to pursue education in a third country. Or to take up an employment opportunity. Family reunification procedures, humanitarian and sponsorship schemes are also possible complementary pathways.
It is essential to know that admissions through these avenues need to be in addition and cannot substitute those arriving through UNHCR-referred resettlement programmes. Complementary pathways also do not substitute States’ obligations to provide international protection to refugees through access to asylum.
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What are complementary pathways for admission?
Complementary pathways are avenues for persons in need of international protection that provide for a lawful stay in a third country where the international protection needs of the beneficiaries are met. Beneficiaries of complementary pathways are given legal access to a third country through the given pathway, where they can gradually attain a more sustainable permanent status. At the same time, they can support themselves to reach a durable solution.
Pathways include existing admission avenues that refugees may be eligible to apply to, but which may require administrative and operational adjustments to facilitate refugee access. They must be carefully designed and implemented to ensure the protection and rights of refugees.
Keep in mind
A special characteristic of complementary pathways is that refugees can access them directly using publicly available information and existing administrative mechanisms.
Thus, refugees can find their own solutions. This is already happening without the help of humanitarian actors, as many refugees use existing avenues to move across borders for work, family or education reasons. However, others who could be eligible to do the same often face legal, administrative and practical issues inherent in their refugee situation.
While they may initially provide temporary stay, complementary pathways should be part of a progressive approach to comprehensive solutions.
They should ensure access to rights and eventual enjoying of a sustainable durable solution. These pathways allow refugees to contribute to their future solutions by harnessing their existing capacities and providing opportunities to learn new skills.
Types of complementary pathways
UNHCR works with States, civil society, private sector, academia, governmental organizations and refugees to identify, establish and expand complementary pathways for admission to third countries.
Diverse in nature, complementary pathways may include one or a combination of the following:
- Family Reunification Procedures (often limited by states to nuclear family members), and programmes for extended family members
- Labour Mobility Pathways
- Education Pathways
- Humanitarian Pathways
- Private Sponsorship Pathways
- Other safe and regulated entry and stay options, including hybrids of the above.
Why complementary pathways?
These pathways directly contribute to equal responsibility-sharing and help meet three objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.
Overall, complementary pathways can help:
- ease pressure on host countries by promoting a fairer sharing of responsibilities;
- expand third-country solutions for refugees and give them alternatives to irregular means and dangerous onward movement;
- enhance refugee self-reliance and build capacities to achieve a durable solution; support third countries in addressing labour or skills shortages; build public support for refugees by demonstrating their positive contributions to receiving societies.
Refugee situations continue to increase in scope, scale, and complexity. This increases the need to share the responsibility for hosting and supporting the growing number of refugees in a fairer way.
In 2016, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants highlighted the need for international cooperation and more predictable, equitable and sustainable responsibility-sharing for refugees. Building on this, in 2018, the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) reiterated the determination of the international community to strengthen cooperation and solidarity with refugees and host communities.
The GCR also acknowledged that third country solutions practically demonstrate this much-needed solidarity. To this end, it called for the development of the Three-year Strategy (2019 – 2021) on resettlement and complementary pathways. This multi-stakeholder Strategy aims to increase resettlement countries and spaces, advance complementary pathways and build the foundation by promoting inclusive societies.
- Key considerations (also available in Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish)
- Complementary Pathways documents on Refworld
- UNHCR, Global Responsibility Sharing through Pathways for Admission of Syrian Refugees
- Conclusion on machine-readable travel documents for refugees and stateless persons, ExCom
- Conclusion of the Executive Committee on international cooperation from a protection and solutions perspective, ExCom
- New Approaches to solutions, ExCom Standing Committee
- Refugee Resettlement and Complementary Pathways: Opportunities for Growth
- Final Report: The Three-Year Strategy (2019-2021) on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways
- Third Country Solutions for Refugees: Roadmap 2030. The next phase of the Three Year Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways (2019-2021)