The number of refugees requiring resettlement – the route to safety reserved for the most vulnerable refugees in the world – has reached an all-time high of almost 1.45 million. But as resettlement needs rise, international commitment to the programme is already waning, with UN global departures in 2019 decreasing by half since a high in 2016 to fewer than 64,000.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to resettlement efforts, with virus containment measures including restrictions on overseas travels, stalling the journeys of at least 10,000 refugees.

In order to safeguard refugee resettlement schemes globally, the IRC is calling for governments and donors to maintain support for resettlement agencies and NGOs, to ensure they can continue to serve resettled refugees and other populations, including providing them with vital health care information and access to medical services during this time.

As resettlement travel for refugees resumes, the IRC urges participating countries to restart their programmes as soon as it is safe to do so, and fast track the cases that had been approved for departure before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the number of refugees reaching 29.6 million in 2019, including almost 1.45 million who are now in need of resettlement, the international community must do more to ensure that the gap between the needs and the available places does not continue to widen.  

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee said:

“These figures are a sobering reminder of the scale of resettlement needs resulting from conflict and crisis around the world. Despite these high numbers, the reality is that only a very small percentage of these people (4.4% in 2019) – including survivors of torture and violence, families,  and vulnerable women and girls – will have the opportunity to resettle and rebuild their lives in a new country."

“Resettlement remains a life-saving tool for many refugees and the COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as justification to permanently restrict or reduce programmes. Temporary suspension measures that were imposed on resettlement travel to protect public health have now been lifted by UNHCR and the IOM. It is imperative that existing programmes are resumed as soon as possible – additional delays will only leave vulnerable refugees in limbo for longer.

The EU must be commended for increasing its resettlement commitments over the last 5 years and for reaching 92% of its 50,000 target in 2017–2019. The IRC is calling on the EU to resettle 250,000 refugees by 2025, reaching 30,000 in 2020 as a crucial first step in this direction. Currently, the EU’s commitment represents just 2% of global need in 2021; the EU can and should do more and the upcoming EU Pact on Migration and Asylum offers such an opportunity."