Refugee resettlement: Major NGOs urge greater efforts

Refugee resettlement: Major NGOs urge greater efforts
An aerial view of Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan. Credit: UN / Flickr

Major non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have published a joint appeal to the European Union and Member States to ramp up their refugee resettlement programmes, which it says are being neglected in favour of Ukrainian refugees.

The statement – issued by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Amnesty International EU, the EU Red Cross, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) – stresses the urgent need for EU member states to take a “forward-looking approach to global refugee protection needs.” They estimate that a total of 1.5 million people worldwide are in need of resettlement.

An example of resettlement might be a Syrian family with an injured father who cannot afford to access healthcare or access schooling in Lebanon. In this case, the family could be transported to Sweden.

“The EU’s response to more than 6 million refugees fleeing Ukraine has been remarkable. Yet, this outpouring of support must not come at the expense of refugees fleeing other conflict zones and fragile states across the world,” said Harlem Désir, IRC Senior Vice President for Europe.

According to IRC, investments and preparations must be made to ensure that “resettlement programmes are not placed on hold or inadvertently delayed, downscaled, or suspended.”

A critical lifeline

The EU has repeatedly asserted that resettlement was a “crucial tool” for protecting refugees who experience vulnerability in countries where they first arrive. It also hopes to alleviate refugee pressures on refugee-hosting countries.

Global resettlement needs are at an all-time high in 2022. The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has warned that 100 million people have fled their homes and as many as 1.47 million people are projected to be in need of resettlement, with the statistic growing further in 2023.

According to the NGOs, low- and middle-income countries host 86% of the world’s refugees. Some of the nations that would be most greatly helped by resettlement schemes include Lebanon, Libya, and Uganda.

In Lebanon, nine out of ten refugee families live in extreme poverty, and 90% of its Syrian refugees require humanitarian aid. In Libya, over 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers are held in camps and face human rights abuses.

Not doing enough

The coalition of NGOs accuse the EU of failing on its resettlement programmes. “EU resettlement efforts remain far below needs and, despite important progress in previous years, are now falling short of the commitments made.”

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They call on the EU to reaffirm its commitment to refugee resettlement programmes and stop existing plans from shrinking in scale. The IRC also asks the EU to expand existing programmes and capacity to receive refugees.

“This is a pivotal moment for states to invest in durable, multi-annual, resilient, and ambitious resettlement programmes, mobilising the unprecedented solidarity towards refugees from Ukraine and building on the investments already made into the emergency response.”

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