UNHCR, Save the Children and the Swedish Red Cross co-organized a seminar on complementary pathways in Sweden with experts from the Swedish Migration Agency, civil society and academia.
© UNHCR/Antoine Tardy
In recent weeks, a large number of state institutions, businesses, civil society actors and individuals have responded to the influx of Ukrainian refugees by opening up education and job opportunities for the new arrivals.
Education and employment programmes and other safe and legal pathways can provide an opportunity for people forced to flee to be able to continue to pursue their education or career and be given a chance to leave a temporary shelter or protracted refugee situation.
“We would benefit from having more safe and legal pathways for refugees to come to Europe and get protection here,” says Lisa Pelling, Director of the think tank Arena Idé.
She was one of three panelists in the webinar “Complementary pathways for persons in need of international protection”, jointly organized on 10 March by Save the Children, the Swedish Red Cross, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in the Nordic and Baltic Countries.
“Right now, the solidarity with Ukrainian refugees is enormous. I believe that this crisis will give us additional arguments to show that we need to accept people forced to flee, we can afford to accept them, and we will even benefit from accepting them,” Lisa Pelling adds.
The webinar – which is the second of a three-part series on durable solutions – brought together leading voices on migration, forced displacement and complementary pathways in Sweden. The panelists included Bernd Parusel, expert from the Swedish Migration Agency and researcher on European migration policy, Lisa Pelling, Director of the think tank Arena Idé and expert on migration and integration issues, and Karolina Catoni, Deputy Head of the International Centre at the University of Gothenburg and Coordinator of the Swedish section of Scholars at Risk.
To respond to the need for long-term solutions for refugees – whether from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ethiopia or elsewhere – UNHCR has long advocated for more complementary pathways for refugees to be established. Since the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, the interest in complementary pathways has grown and there are numerous initiatives in motion in Sweden and globally.
Complementary pathways refer to safe and legal pathways which complement resettlement by providing lawful stay in a third country where their international protection needs are met. These can include education programmes, labour mobility opportunities, family reunification and humanitarian admission programmes. With access to safe and legal pathways, people forced to flee can find safety and protection without being forced on dangerous and irregular journeys.
“Legal pathways can be a way to increase refugees’ independence and give refugees the possibility to develop and use their skills and ensure that their competencies are not wasted,” says Erika Löfgren, Senior Durable Solutions Associate at UNHCR’s Representation for the Nordic and Baltic Countries. “Legal pathways can also contribute to lessening the burden on first countries of asylum. It is an act of solidarity.”
Complementary pathways do not substitute states’ responsibility to receive and protect refugees who seek asylum in their countries – and, in addition, the idea and clear recommendation from UNHCR is to make complementary pathways additional to the traditional resettlement of refugees. Which complementary pathways are available and how they work in practice varies between countries.
In Sweden, the international network Scholars at Risk is one example of a complementary pathway initiative. The network contributes to providing safe and legal pathways for academics at risk by connecting them with Swedish universities and higher education institutions open to hosting at-risk scholars. Currently, Sweden accepts around ten at-risk academics each year – a number which Karolina Catoni from Scholars at Risk considers likely to grow following high interest in the programme and motivation to expand.
The third and final seminar in the series will focus on integration and be held in the autumn.