Third country resettlement

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Third country resettlement or refugee resettlement is, according to the UNHCR, one of three durable solutions (voluntary repatriation and local integration being the other two) for refugees who fled their home country. Resettled refugees may also be referred to as quota or contingent refugees, as countries only take a certain number of refugees each year. In 2016 there were 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide and around 190,000 of them were resettled into a third country.[1]

History of resettlement[edit]

  • The International Refugee Organization resettled over 1 million refugees between 1947 and 1951. They were scattered throughout Europe after World War II. 80% of them were resettled outside Europe.[2] An example for those resettled within Europe are the 150,000 Polish soldiers and their families who were resettled in the UK by 1949.[3]
  • Due to the Soviet invasion in Hungary in 1956, 200,000 Hungarians fled to Yugoslavia and Austria. Nearly all 180,000 Hungarians who fled to Austria were resettled to 37 third countries within three years.[4] The Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968 had the same effect; many Czechoslovakians fled their country and were subsequently resettled.
  • Most of its Asian minority were expelled from Uganda in 1972 and some 40,000 Ugandan Asians were resettled in third countries.
  • Following a coup d’état in Chile in 1973, 5,000 refugees from neighbouring countries were resettled.
  • 650,000 Vietnamese refugees were resettled in the United States.[5]
  • Between April 1992 and June 1997, following the first Gulf War, approximately 21,800 Iraqis were accepted for resettlement from Saudi Arabia.
  • Between 1992 and July 1993 over 11,000 inmates from places of detention in Bosnia and Herzegovina had left for third countries. By June 1997, UNHCR had been directly involved in resettling some 47,000 refugees from former Yugoslavia.[6]
  • More than 100,000 refugees from Myanmar have been resettled from the refugee camps in Thailand since 2004 and as many people have been resettled from Malaysia during this same period.[7]

Selection process[edit]

Precondition for resettlement is to be registered as a refugee with the UNHCR and to have undergone the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process based on the 1951 Refugee Convention refugee definition. Among those refugees the UNHCR or other organisations (e.g. RefugePoint or HIAS) make referrals for resettlement if they identify a high level of risk and vulnerability whilst being in the first country of asylum. Refugees cannot apply for resettlement themselves. Selection procedures can vary between UNHCR offices[8] but the below criteria are generally used:[9]

  • physical safety and legal rights are at risk in country of asylum
  • past experience of violence and torture
  • significant medical needs that cannot be provided for in country of asylum
  • sex/gender based risks in country of asylum
  • children and adolescents are at risk in country of asylum
  • resettlement is the only way of reuniting a family
  • resettlement is the only way for building a durable future

If one or more of these criteria are met it still needs to be assessed whether third country resettlement is the most appropriate durable solution compared to voluntary return and local integration. After the refugees are referred for resettlement and agree to be resettled they are suggested to suitable countries that run resettlement programmes. Each participating government can select from the referrals and refugees themselves cannot choose their country of resettlement. Even though receiving countries should not select refugees according to their own criteria, it may be that societal and political desires influence which groups of refugees are received.[8] Countries make their decisions based on either just a dossier or following an interview with the refugee.

It is also possible for multiple refugees to be submitted for resettlement if they share specific circumstances, such as similar reasons for their flight and no prospects of return. Examples for group resettlement were the Lost Boys of Sudan from Kenya, Liberians from Guinea and Sierra Leone, Burundians from Tanzania and Eritreans from Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia.[10]

Biases in the selection process[edit]

Receiving countries tend to use their own criteria for selecting refugees for resettlement. Many governments prioritise women and complete families and deprioritise single males. This happens in order to minimise potential security risks.[11]

Even the UNHCR resettlement officers who submit refugees' dossiers to potential receiving countries may themselves bias the selection. For example, it was revealed that UNHCR staff in Nairobi extorted money from refugees for resettlement places.[12] Apart from that, large families are more likely to be considered for resettlement than singles, because resettlement officers have to work through fewer case files per submitted person when referring large families. Also single men, who are likely to receive a more thorough and time consuming security screening from resettlement states, are less likely to be submitted.[13]

To be referred for resettlement may involve a tedious game with refugee chairmen, agency personnel or security guards. Chairmen can help making up stories or can ignore real security issues. The refugees themselves may manipulate the selection process. They may not mention that they have recently married in order not to delay their departure or they make themselves younger or older in order to, putatively, increase their chances for resettlement. They may even exaggerate their level of vulnerability as has been noticed in Kakuma: men staged violent attacks on themselves or their dwellings and women pretended rapes; they may be hiding their military or rebel past, or change their ethnicity, in order to belong to a certain persecuted group.[14]

Stages of the resettlement journey[edit]

There are three stages of the resettlement journey: Pre-departure happens from their country of origin, departure is the during the process of resettlement and post-arrival happens in their new country.

Pre-departure[edit]

After the selection process is completed there may be additional government interviews and security checks, followed by health assessments and a cultural orientation training. The latter should emphasise on the potential challenges for refugees in the receiving country.[15] The cultural orientation trainings do not always happen and they differ in duration and depth. The Gateway Resettlement Programme for example, used to provide two weeks of cultural orientation when it was launched in 2004; however this has shrunk to three hours in 2016.[16] In addition to helping refugees begin to prepare for life in a new country, cultural orientation can also contribute to the uncertainty and stress associated with resettlement.

Departure[edit]

Refugees are assisted to travel into the receiving country, usually by airplane. From being selected for resettlement to actually arriving in the US, it usually takes between 18–24 months.[17] Refugees who are resettled in the US have to pay back a loan for their flight tickets which is provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).[18]

In certain circumstances, where refugees have to be evacuated immediately from life-threatening situations in the first country of asylum, they can be brought to Emergency Transit Centres (ETC). These provide a temporary safe haven before receiving countries are ready to take them. The Timișoara Emergency Transit Centre in Romania, that opened in 2008, was Europe’s first evacuation centre.[19] The Humenné Emergency Transit Centre in Slovakia was opened in 2009.[20] However, these ETCs together can only accommodate up to 300 people.

IOM staff escorts the refugees to the receiving country and can provide a medical escort, if needed. As most refugees have no experience of air travel, the escort assists them with the preparation for the travel and with the journey itself, guiding and monitoring them throughout the journey and until they are handed over to the post-arrival service of the receiving country.[15]

Post-arrival[edit]

Refugees are met at the airport and get immediate integration and orientation support in most countries. Upon arrival in the country refugees have the right to reside in the country and do not need to apply for asylum. Refugees who are resettled to the US have to pay rent after six months.[18] Once a refugee is resettled in a third country the main focus is to help them become self-sufficient.[21]

Resettlement programmes[edit]

In 2012 there were 26 third countries which run specific and ongoing resettlement programmes in co-operation with the UNHCR.[22] The largest programmes are run by the United States, Canada and Australia. A number of European countries run smaller schemes and in 2004 the United Kingdom established its own scheme, known as the Gateway Protection Programme[23] with an initial annual quota of 750.[24] The smallest is run by Japan which offers 30 resettlement places per year.[25]

Europe[edit]

In September 2009, the European Commission unveiled plans for new Joint EU Resettlement Programme. The scheme would involve EU member states deciding together each year which refugees should be given priority. Member states would receive €4,000 from the European Refugee Fund per refugee resettled.[26]

Bulgarian refugee children from Gorno Brodi after the Second Balkan War resettled in Pestera

United States[edit]

Half of the refugees who are resettled each year went to the United States. The United States helped resettle roughly 2 million refugees between 1945 and 1979, when their refugee resettlement program was restructured. In the U.S. no other travelers undergo such rigorous security screening compared to refugees trying to enter the country and they are screened by six different federal agencies.[27] The average time it takes from the referral to the arrival of a refugee is 18 to 24 months.[27]  

The number of refugees resettled to the US is limited by an annual ceiling that the president determines each fiscal year(FY). There is usually around 60,000 to 90,000 refugees resettled each fiscal year.[28] This year (FY 2018) the number is set at 45,000 which is the lowest it has been in history after the brief period after 9/11.[28] 

They now make use of 11 "Voluntary Agencies" (VOLAGS), which are non-governmental organizations that assist the government in the resettlement process.[29] These organizations assist the refugees with the day-to-day needs of the large transition into a completely new culture. Usually, they are not funded by the government, but instead rely on their own resources and volunteers. Most of them have local offices, and caseworkers that provide individualized aid to each refugee's situation. They do rely on the sponsorship of individuals or groups, such as faith-based congregations or local organizations. The largest of the VOLAGS is the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference.[29] Others include Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Ethiopian Community Development Council, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and World Relief.[30]

There are a number of advantages to the strategy of using agencies other than the government to directly assist in resettlement. First of all, it has been estimated that for a federal or state bureaucracy to resettle refugees instead of the VOLAGS would double the overall cost. These agencies are often able to procure large quantities of donations and, more importantly, volunteers. According to one study, when the fact that resettlement workers often have to work nights, weekends, and overtime in order to meet the demands of the large cultural transition of new refugees is taken into account, the use of volunteers reduces the overall cost down to roughly a quarter.[31] VOLAGS are also more flexible and responsive than the government since they are smaller and rely on their own funds.

South America[edit]

Around 1,100 refugees, mainly Colombians, were resettled within South America between 2005 and 2014 through the "Solidarity Resettlement Programme". However, as many refugees expected to be resettled to the US or Europe 22% of them left again, possibly returning to the country of first asylum or the country of origin.[32]

In 2011 the combined quota of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay together was 230 resettlement places.[33]

Resettlement gap[edit]

Resettlement gap in 2011[34]
Region of asylum Number of refugees with resettlement need UNHCR submissions for resettlement UNHCR assisted departures
Africa 56,928 22,267 10,431
Americas 5,060 963 494
Asia and Pacific 56,136 38,404 37,975
Europe 18,721 7,716 4,916
Middle East and North Africa 35,462 22,493 7,833
Total 172,305 91,843 61,649

UNHCR Statistics[edit]

Resettlement arrivals[edit]

Number of resettled refugees and countries of arrival between 2014 and 2008
Country 2014[35] 2013[36] 2012[37] 2011[38] 2010[39] 2009[40] 2008[41]
Argentina 21 - 8 28 22 30 42
Australia 11,570 13,169 5,937 9,226 8,516 11,080 11,006
Austria 388 - - - - - -
Belgium 34 100 - 29 - 47 -
Brazil 36 62 39 23 21 33 19
Canada 12,277 12,173 9,624 12,929 12,098 12,457 10,804
Chile - - 3 23 6 - 161
Czech Republic 5 1 - - 48 17 -
Denmark 344 515 476 516 495 433 552
Finland 1,089 674 731 584 541 724 749
France 110 89 62 116 407 - 37
Germany 280 293 307 63 469 2,069 -
Hungary - 1 1 - - - -
Iceland - - 9 - 6 - 31
Ireland 96 76 39 45 20 192 101
Japan 23 18 - 18 27 - -
Liechtenstein 5 - 1 - - - -
Luxembourg 28 - - - - 28 -
Netherlands 791 311 429 538 431 369 693
New Zealand 737 840 781 497 631 727 741
Nicaragua - - - - - 3 -
Norway 1,286 948 1,228 1,273 1,097 1,391 741
Paraguay - - - 22 13 - -
Philippines 49 19 15 13 - - -
Portugal 14 6 27 30 33 - -
Romania 40 - - - - - -
Spain - - 80 - - - -
Sweden 1,971 1,902 1,873 1,895 1,786 1,936 2,209
Switzerland 152 - - - - - -
United Kingdom 787 966 1,039 454 715 955 722
United States 73,011 66,249 66,289 51,458 71,362 79,937 60,192
Uruguay 53 14 9 4 17 14 -

Resettlement departures[edit]

In terms of resettlement departures, in 2008, 65,548 refugees were resettled in 26 countries, up from 49,868 in 2007.[42] The largest number of UNHCR-assisted departures were from Thailand (16,807), Nepal (8,165), Syria (7,153), Jordan (6,704) and Malaysia (5,865).[42] Note that these are the countries that refugees were resettled from, not their countries of origin.

Departures for third country resettlement between 2014 and 2010
Country of origin Resettled from 2014[35] 2013[36] 2012[37] 2011[38] 2010[39]
Total UNHCR assisted Total UNHCR assisted Total UNHCR assisted Total UNHCR assisted Total UNHCR assisted
Afghanistan Azerbaijan 132 132
Afghanistan India 144 108 81 59 89 73 79 63
Afghanistan Indonesia 429 429 654 654 149 149 154 154 63 63
Afghanistan Iran 1,255 1,255 1,900 1,900 1,427 1,427 480 480 394 394
Afghanistan Malaysia 57 51 149 148
Afghanistan Pakistan 876 876 990 990 336 336 191 191 152 152
Afghanistan Russia 135 135 149 149 92 92 204 204
Afghanistan Syria 64 64
Afghanistan Tajikistan 58 58
Afghanistan Turkey 290 290 344 344 248 248 105 105 168 168
Afghanistan Uzbekistan 68 68 190 190
Bhutan Nepal 8,395 8,395 10,665 10,665 16,674 16,674 18,067 18,067 14,809 14,809
Burundi South Africa 55 55
Burundi Tanzania 208 208 99 99 97 97 50 50 588 588
Cambodia Thailand 54 54
CAR Cameroon 171 171 150 150 112 106 68 67
CAR Chad 145 145 306 306 141 141
China Thailand 73 73
Colombia Costa Rica 50 50
Colombia Ecuador 959 959 1,045 1,045 562 562 379 379 378 378
Congo DRC 85 85 55 55
Congo Gabon 92 92 58 58
DRC Burundi 544 544 365 365 161 161 53 53 148 148
DRC Cameroon 92 92
DRC Congo 63 63
DRC Ethiopia 116 116 119 119 62 62
DRC Kenya 560 560 308 308 192 192 234 234 179 179
DRC Malawi 220 220 390 390 179 179 195 195 188 188
DRC Mozambique 105 105 218 218 129 114 82 76
DRC Namibia 140 140 78 78
DRC Nigeria 111 111 109 109
DRC Rwanda 2,569 2,569 922 922 797 797 726 726 643 643
DRC South Africa 161 161 101 101 101 101 52 52
DRC Tanzania 211 211 422 422 586 586 183 183 1,996 1,996
DRC Uganda 1,447 1,447 898 898 289 289 113 113 376 376
DRC Zambia 393 393 224 224 177 177 168 159 280 280
DRC Zimbabwe 145 145 214 214 522 522 144 144 152 152
Eritrea Djibouti 125 125 170 162
Eritrea Egypt 133 133 178 170 116 116 75 25 136 57
Eritrea Ethiopia 1,121 1,121 663 663 1,049 1,049 1,343 1,343 2,260 2,260
Eritrea Israel 65 65
Eritrea Kenya 57 57
Eritrea Malta 166 166 137 137 145 145 179 179 148 148
Eritrea Sudan 825 825 582 582 435 435 875 875 586 215
Eritrea Tunisia 72 72 440 440 200 200
Eritrea Yemen 181 181 97 97
Ethiopia Djibouti 91 91 50 50 59 59
Ethiopia Egypt 82 82 183 176 77 77 50 10
Ethiopia Kenya 480 480 469 469 806 806 906 906 606 606
Ethiopia Somalia 56 56 173 173
Ethiopia Sudan 57 57 145 145 231 21
Ethiopia Tunisia 64 64 189 189
Iran Indonesia 105 105 86 86
Iran Turkey 2,343 2,343 2,377 2,377 1,925 1,925 1,815 1,815 1,210 1,210
Iraq Egypt 213 213 296 287 306 306 172 96 467 292
Iraq Indonesia 73 73 109 109
Iraq Jordan 1,602 1,602 3,000 3,000 3,225 3,225 965 965 3,444 3,444
Iraq Kuwait 68 68 58 58
Iraq Lebanon 1,250 1,250 2,231 2,231 2,776 2,776 765 765 1,843 1,843
Iraq Malaysia 52 50
Iraq Syria 1,795 1,795 3,960 3,960 3,397 3,397 4,455 4,455 6,865 6,865
Iraq Tunisia 72 72 163 163
Iraq Turkey 5,803 5,803 4,252 4,252 3,565 3,565 2,337 2,337 3,564 3,564
Iraq UAE 192 192 208 208 67 67 109 109
Laos Philippines 140 140 55 55
Laos Thailand 135 135 375 375
Liberia Sierra Leone 55 55 104 104
Myanmar Bangladesh 211 211
Myanmar India 453 346 510 404 163 149 437 391 566 487
Myanmar Malaysia 10,673 10,562 8,123 8,072 10,308 10,308 8,274 8,274 7,888 7,888
Myanmar Sri Lanka 53 53
Myanmar Thailand 6,582 6,582 8,208 8,208 6,845 6,845 9,214 9,214 10,823 10,823
Pakistan Nepal 69 69
Pakistan Sri Lanka 110 110 125 125 52 52 58 58
Pakistan Thailand 119 119 203 203 171 171
Palestinian Iraq 93 93 60 60 669 669
Palestinian Malaysia 57 57
Palestinian Thailand 87 87
Palestinian Turkey 61 61
Rwanda Congo 58 58
Rwanda Zambia 68 68
Somalia Botswana 104 104 124 124
Somalia Djibouti 243 243 305 305 505 505 120 120 81 81
Somalia Egypt 224 224 426 401 282 282 113 74 242 148
Somalia Eritrea 356 356 484 484 258 258 241 241 406 406
Somalia Ethiopia 3,076 3.076 1,782 1,782 1,502 1,502 1,175 1,175 688 688
Somalia India 65 63
Somalia Indonesia 63 63
Somalia Jordan 52 52 69 69 88 88
Somalia Kenya 3,562 3.562 2,612 2,612 1,442 1,442 2,102 2,102 2,776 2,776
Somalia Malaysia 128 120 123 99
Somalia Malta 373 373 240 240 242 242 131 131 257 257
Somalia Pakistan 69 69 80 80
Somalia South Africa 848 848 629 629 380 380 95 95
Somalia Syria 121 121 54 54 158 158 197 197
Somalia Thailand 79 79 50 50
Somalia Tunisia 356 356 548 548 104 104
Somalia Turkey 128 128 153 153 124 124 73 73 252 252
Somalia Uganda 712 712 1,202 1,202 927 927 251 251 152 152
Somalia Yemen 133 133 224 224 174 174 297 297
South Sudan Kenya 92 92 88 88
Sri Lanka Indonesia 136 136 78 78 57 57
Sri Lanka Thailand 119 119 80 80 107 107 85 85
Sudan Chad 87 87
Sudan Egypt 588 588 1,414 1,397 701 701 115 61 184 146
Sudan Ethiopia 162 162 65 65
Sudan Ghana 79 79 54 54 90 90
Sudan Jordan 79 79 115 115 120 120
Sudan Kenya 82 82 61 61 102 102 213 213 103 103
Sudan Lebanon 75 75 76 76
Sudan Tunisia 289 289 546 546 61 61
Syria Egypt 153 153
Syria Jordan 1,554 1,554 184 184
Syria Lebanon 4,903 4,903 978 978 62 62
Syria Turkey 282 282
Togo Benin 52 52
Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan 125 125 126 126
Uzbekistan Russia 57 57
Various Tanzania 80 80
Vietnam Cambodia 59 59
Vietnam Thailand 91 91

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