European Civil Society Organizations: Refugee Resettlement Can’t Wait

Seven major civil society organizations and networks have launched a joint statement urging the European Union to urgently revive and increase its refugee resettlement efforts, which were temporarily halted due to COVID-19.

European Civil Society Organizations: Refugee Resettlement Can’t Wait
The COVID-19 pandemic has suspended international resettlement for the very refugees who are most need protection. Photo: Mouhamad Al Masri and his family fled Syria for Lebanon in 2014. Today, the family of six is still waiting to be resettled to Norway. ©UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sánchez

Resettlement is one of the few safe, legal pathways available for vulnerable refugees to reach the EU from third countries such as Lebanon, Libya and Uganda. In 2019, more than 21,000 refugees were resettled in the EU.

However, travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought resettlement to a standstill for several months this year. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 10,000 refugees have had their departures to the EU cancelled.Despite resettlement programs slowly restarting, global resettlement efforts are reportedly still at a record low.

The statement’s signatories are calling on the EU Member States to fulfill their pledges to take in some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, as well as to:

  • meet their commitment to resettle 30,000 refugees in 2020 and increase this number to at least 35,000 in 2021;
  • work in partnership with countries of asylum, civil society, welcoming communities and refugees themselves;
  • seize the opportunity presented by the Pact on Migration and Asylum, to be launched on Wednesday, 23 September, to frame resettlement and other safe, legal avenues to protection as an EU priority.

The statement is co-signed by:

  • Caritas Europe
  • Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe
  • European Council on Refugees and Exiles
  • International Catholic Migration Commission
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Red Cross EU Office
  • SHARE Network

Petra Hueck, Director of ICMC Europe / SHARE Network says:

“COVID-19 has made clear that many meetings and conferences can be avoided. For resettlement to pick up speed and reach targets for 2020, countries must look for alternatives to travel for ‘on site’ selection and pre-departure cultural orientation missions. Let’s innovate in resettlement, do it now and focus on results. Current good practice includes France, to where resettled refugees will travel next month thanks to the use of electronic ‘dossier’ submissions, and the Swiss use of remote video interviews to select refugees and ensure arrivals in 2020.”

Imogen Sudbery, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) says:

“COVID-19 did not create the need for more resettlement to the EU, but the pandemic has once more underlined the urgency for programs to be significantly scaled up in a sustainable and future-proof way. Low- and middle-income countries bordering crisis zones cannot continue to bear the responsibility for hosting the majority of the world’s refugees alone. The new Pact on Migration and Asylum is a crucial opportunity for the European Commission and Member States to show that they are serious about wanting a fresh start to EU asylum and migration policies by protecting the right to seek asylum and making resettlement a key priority.”

Torsten Moritz, Secretary General of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe says:

“In 2019, the EU and its member states made an important resettlement commitment at the Global Refugee Forum. As international travel is resuming, they should try everything to meet the 30,000-places target in 2020 and to go beyond in 2021.”

Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa says:

“The protection needs are huge: 1,45 million refugees worldwide have been identified by UNHCR as particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement. The pandemic should not be used as an excuse by EU states to delay the implementation of their commitment to bring 30,000 of these people to safety in the EU this year. Global solidarity and responsibility are needed now more than ever.”

  • Read the full statement here
  • Learn more about refugee resettlement here

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