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This page provides information on Resettlement programs. The page is divided in the following sections: Introduction, information on UNHCR’s Mandate on Resettlement, a list of Useful Organisations and Resources, and Country-specific Information on Resettlement, and contact details of our Resource Persons.
Resettlement is the process of relocation or transfer of refugees from one asylum country to another that agrees to admit them and give them permanent residence. It is a durable solution that may be offered to refugees who cannot return to their home country and cannot integrate or find appropriate protection in their country of asylum, or are considered to be particularly vulnerable. UNHCR is the organisation that helps with the resettlement of refugees and serves as the primary referral agency to states for the consideration of refugees for resettlement. However, it is not the only organisation that makes referrals, states may take resettlement referrals from any organisation at their own discretion. You can find videos explaining the resettlement process here and here.
UNHCR identifies refugees in need of resettlement as part of its mandate, but States make decisions on admissibility according to national policies and immigration regulations. A state offering resettlement has full authority concerning decisions on individual resettlement cases. Resettlement states usually conduct an independent refugee determination process and may apply additional selection criteria and conduct interviews to assess the compliance of refugees referred by UNHCR and others. In the words of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook foreword ‘Resettlement is a partnership activity. Without the generosity, commitment and expertise of States, NGOs’ and others, it could not take place.’
According to the UNHCR Resettlement Fact Sheet (August 2022), there were 64,415 UNHCR submissions and 32,289 departures, along with 22 countries that have accepted submissions for resettlement according to the needs and priorities identified by the UNHCR. Other countries do not have established resettlement programmes but may resettle refugees on an ad hoc basis, and some maintain special resettlement places for refugees with specific needs.
Resettlement states guarantee the protection of the refugees against forced return and ensure that their families and dependants have access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals, and integration should be facilitated by the resettlement country. Refugees admitted for resettlement in a third country are also granted permanent residence in that country and allow the opportunity to eventually become naturalized citizens of the resettlement country.
UNHCR's Mandate on Resettlement
UNHCR provides a Resettlement Handbook on management and policy guidance to UNHCR staff. Although produced in 1996, it is still an indispensable tool in resettlement issues as it has been updated and revised. It can be accessed both in English and French.
UNHCR’s mandate on resettlement is to prioritise people who cannot be protected in their host country, including protection against refoulement and providing them with the opportunity to access rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. Therefore, states are prepared to ensure such persons’ safety by moving them out of their host state within days, with the help of a UNHCR representative.
This durable solution serves as an international protection tool for larger groups of refugees, that works due to international solidarity and the state’s devotion to sharing responsibilities.
UNHCR defines the criteria for resettlement consideration as follows:
- Survivors of Torture and/or Violence, where repatriation or the conditions of asylum could result in further traumatization and/or heightened risk; or where appropriate treatment is not available;
- Medical Needs, in particular, a life-saving treatment that is unavailable in the country of refuge;
- Women and Girls at Risk, who have protection problems particular to their gender;
- Family Reunification, when resettlement is the only means to reunite refugee family members who, owing to refugee flight or displacement, are separated by borders or entire continents;
- Children and Adolescents at Risk, where a best interests determination supports resettlement.
Useful Organisations and Resources
The Refugee Council (RC) give resettled refugees the support they need to rebuild their lives after resettling in the UK. They work with local communities, groups and public services, ensuring resettled refugees have a warm welcome and a home in which to begin their new lives. You can find more information on their work here.
The RC also provides information and frequently asked questions on their Refugee resettlement facts page.
This briefing has been published by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford and examines asylum and refugee resettlement in the UK. It presents data on the number and characteristics of asylum seekers and resettled refugees, the success rate of asylum applications, and the impact of COVID-19.
Country-specific Information on Resettlement
For other information related to asylum and refugee protection in different countries, as well as provision of legal aid or legal assistance and other forms of assistance, please visit the pro bono directory
Resource Persons on Resettlement
Cassidy Rappaport worked in refugee resettlement in the US for four years. She was the Matching Grant Coordinator at Heartland Alliance in Chicago. She now works at Upwardly Global, helping refugees and immigrants get back into their professional fields. Cassidy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology and Refugee Studies from Hampshire College. Cassidy knows the refugee resettlement process within the US but is not a resettlement officer and cannot help with resettling someone. She can answer questions about US resettlement.
Shannon Ericson (She/Her)
Shannon Ericson grew up in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota where a substantial Hmong and Somali refugee community have settled over the past several decades. This sparked her journey to work with the refugee community. With nearly one year experience working in refugee foster care in Michigan and nearly seven years in refugee resettlement in Chicago, Shannon now works in a community program connecting refugees and immigrants with mental health services in the Chicagoland area. Shannon holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work and a Master’s degree in international grassroots community development, which led her to live and study in Nairobi, Kenya for nearly two years. She speaks fluent English, Spanish and conversational Swahili and can provide information about US resettlement for those with questions.
We are always looking to expand the resources on our platform. If you know about relevant resources, or you are aware of organisations and individuals to include in our directories, please get in touch.
Last updated December 2022