Last week, the European Commission hosted a High-Level Resettlement Forum, where EU and global leaders expressed their commitment to strengthening refugee resettlement, including in Europe. But what is resettlement? Why is it needed? And how can it be strengthened? Find out here.

What is refugee resettlement? 

Photo: MaikReichert/IRC

Why is resettlement important?

Photo: TodrasWhitehill/IRC

What are current resettlement needs?

What must the EU do to help?

Last year, the EU’s member states and the UK resettled just 9,119 refugees - falling far short of their commitment to welcome close to 30,000 refugees through this route in 2020 and representing only 0.6% of global needs. Worse still, EU member states failed to issue new pledges for 2021, meaning that we have lost out on a whole year of refugee resettlement in the Union at the very time we need it most. While these vital programmes have been restarted, it is imperative that they are strengthened and scaled up in a future-proof way.

As one of the world’s wealthiest and most stable regions, the EU and its member states can and must do better. This will require demonstrating real global leadership on refugee protection, and charting a fresh way forward as the international community recovers and rebuilds from COVID-19. Here’s how:

EU member states must urgently meet their pledge to welcome 30,000 refugees in 2020 by the end of 2021.They can achieve this by employing the innovative solutions developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance by conducting resettlement interviews online rather than in-person, or pooling and coordinating resources to make flights or selection missions more cost-effective.

EUmember states must commit to significantly increased pledges for 2022, including resettling at least 36,000 refugees next year. Despite their slow progress, the IRC believes that it’s realistic and achievable for EU member states to resettle 250,000 refugees by 2025.

The EU must urgently restart negotiations on the Union Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission Framework (URF) which would help create a more structured, predictable and longstanding EU policy on resettlement, and provide an important lifeline for refugees. 

Developments on this critical framework have been blocked in the European Council since 2018, as it is bundled into the larger Common European Asylum System ‘package’ of reforms. However, some progress has now been reached on other individual files by ‘decoupling’ them from the overall package. Efforts to advance on specific files must be done in a balanced way, ensuring that measures to strengthen safe routes to protection, such as the URF, are also adopted. This could break the deadlock that has hampered meaningful, coordinated progress on resettlement since 2018.

What can I do to help?