Third country resettlement
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
- 2 Selection process
- 3 Stages of the resettlement journey
- 4 Resettlement programmes
- 5 Resettlement gap
- 6 UNHCR Statistics
- 7 References
History of resettlement
- 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. An example for those resettled within Europe are the 150,000 Polish soldiers and their families who were resettled in the UK by 1949.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 but the below criteria are generally used:
- 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. 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.
Biases in the selection process
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.
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. 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.
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.
Stages of the resettlement journey
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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).
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. The Humenné Emergency Transit Centre in Slovakia was opened in 2009. 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.
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. Once a refugee is resettled in a third country the main focus is to help them become self-sufficient.
In 2012 there were 26 third countries which run specific and ongoing resettlement programmes in co-operation with the UNHCR. 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 with an initial annual quota of 750. The smallest is run by Japan which offers 30 resettlement places per year.
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.
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. The average time it takes from the referral to the arrival of a refugee is 18 to 24 months.
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. 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.
They now make use of 11 "Voluntary Agencies" (VOLAGS), which are non-governmental organizations that assist the government in the resettlement process. 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. 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.
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. VOLAGS are also more flexible and responsive than the government since they are smaller and rely on their own funds.
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.
In 2011 the combined quota of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay together was 230 resettlement places.
|Region of asylum||Number of refugees with resettlement need||UNHCR submissions for resettlement||UNHCR assisted departures|
|Asia and Pacific||56,136||38,404||37,975|
|Middle East and North Africa||35,462||22,493||7,833|
In terms of resettlement departures, in 2008, 65,548 refugees were resettled in 26 countries, up from 49,868 in 2007. 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). Note that these are the countries that refugees were resettled from, not their countries of origin.
|Country of origin||Resettled from||2014||2013||2012||2011||2010|
|Total||UNHCR assisted||Total||UNHCR assisted||Total||UNHCR assisted||Total||UNHCR assisted||Total||UNHCR assisted|
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