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More refugees being helped by family, work and study permits, finds UNHCR and OECD study

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More refugees being helped by family, work and study permits, finds UNHCR and OECD study

19 December 2018
France. scholarships for Syrian refugees
Eias Elnejemi studies at the Cité Universitaire in Toulouse, France, thanks to a scholarship programme for Syrian refugees, December 2017.

Joint Press Release

Data released today shows that OECD countries have admitted more people from major refugee source countries on non-humanitarian permits than through resettlement schemes in the last eight years.

A study by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development titled “Safe Pathways for Refugees” shows that more than 560,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea entered OECD countries through family, work and study permits in an eight year period.

This compares to 350,400 from the five countries who arrived within the same period through resettlement schemes.

These figures do not include people from those five refugee populations who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian permits through national asylum systems and procedures. These amount to 1.5 million in the same period, highlighting the critical importance of fair and efficient national asylum systems.

Of all the non-humanitarian entry permits issued by OECD nations to people from the five refugee source countries, family permits account for 86 per cent, followed by student permits (10 per cent) and work permits (four per cent).

“While these pathways are not a substitute for resettlement, they can complement humanitarian programmes by facilitating safe and legal entry for refugees to other countries. Not only can this help mitigate refugees having to resort to dangerous journeys, it will also go some way towards alleviating the strains on major refugee hosting nations,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk.

This study is the first, comprehensive mapping exercise of its kind, building on the commitments made by the international community in the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants to improve data collection on resettlement and other pathways for admission of refugees.

“In the current global context of large-scale refugee flows and forced displacement, alternative pathways —family, study and work permits — can play an important contribution. It is hoped that this evidence base can help states further scale up predictable, sustainable and protection-sensitive admission systems,” said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD’s Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.

With developing regions hosting 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, or 16.9 million people, ensuring a more timely, equitable and predictable sharing of responsibilities by increasing access for refugees to move to third countries is a key objective of the Global Compact on Refugees.

Findings from this report will support the development of a three year strategy envisaged by the Global Compact on Refugees to expand resettlement and complementary pathways.

Data in the report will also be updated on a regular basis, with the report intended to be issued by UNHCR and OECD every two years.

The report is available here:

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