Resettlement & Complementary Pathways
Photo: A refugee resettled to a village in central France learns French from a local schoolteacher. In rural areas, welcome is a community effort, with villagers sharing their time and skills to help newcomers integrate. © Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR
Pathways to a Hope-Filled Future
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 the ICMC Resettlement Support Center facilitated long-term solutions for refugees living in Turkey and Lebanon.
ICMC took concerted action to protect the health of refugees and staff, while ensuring that critical resettlement services continued during the pandemic — to open the path to a new life in safety and dignity for forcibly uprooted people.
Through its Resettlement Support Center, ICMC continued its long-standing partnership with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in 2020, assisting the United States government to process the applications of refugees under consideration for resettlement.
ICMC staff in Turkey and Lebanon implemented innovative remote processing methods to provide uninterrupted case management assistance, as well as medical screening and pre-departure cultural orientation sessions. Despite pandemic flight bans and other constraints, in 2020 ICMC helped the United States to resettle and thereby offer long-term protection to 695 forcibly displaced people.
ICMC also continued its operation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) Resettlement Support Facility (RSF) in Istanbul, a collaborative pilot project launched in 2019. ICMC’s partnership enables EASO to assist EU Member States and non-EU-member countries in Europe from one dedicated facility, as they offer people fleeing war, violence, and persecution a chance to begin anew. In 2020, amidst various pandemic travel restrictions, ICMC supported resettlement missions from four countries in Europe and facilitated resettlement activities such as screening interviews and pre-departure cultural orientation for over 1,050 refugees.
Third-country refugee resettlement offers a safe and hope-filled future to refugees who can neither safely return home nor remain in safety and dignity in their first country of asylum. But only 1 percent of all refugees in the world are actually resettled to a third country.
Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, ICMC Secretary General, blog reflection on refugee resettlement via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program
Equipping EU Member States for Resettlement
Through the EU-FRANK project in 2016–2020, ICMC Europe partnered with other organizations to strengthen the capacity of EU Member States to offer refugees international protection via resettlement.
Short for European Union Facilitating Resettlement and Refugee Admission through New Knowledge, EU-FRANK built up an evidence base, tools, and training materials for national resettlement programs, and explored new approaches for operational work.
ICMC Europe played a key role in facilitating multilateral exchange within the project’s Pre-Departure Orientation Network. Bringing together some 300 resettlement practitioners from across the EU, this peer learning space supported Member States in developing or improving their national programs to ease refugees’ transition to life in a new home country.
In the course of the project, ICMC Europe organized study visits to the ICMC-run EASO Resettlement Support Facility in Istanbul. This enabled Member States, in particular emerging resettlement countries, to gain field-based insights for their own operations from pre-departure cultural orientation sessions at ICMC’s Istanbul facility.
ICMC Europe co-organized several workshops that allowed experts in the area of cultural orientation to share experiences, explore new ways of working, and offer support. ICMC Europe also contributed core insights on preparing host communities to receive refugees for a compilation of orientation best practices and approaches. The resource, which includes operational checklists, is now available for use by resettlement practitioners throughout Europe.
The EU-FRANK project highlighted the success of the Pre-Departure Orientation Network and recommended that States continue to strengthen cooperation with ICMC and other non-State organizations with resettlement expertise.
The project has contributed to establishing a valuable network for staff at the operational level [that] is very much welcomed as existing networks within the field of resettlement have been mainly for politicians or on management level.
Presentation at the Beyond EU-FRANK conference in June 2020
Promoting Integration in Europe
ICMC Europe partnered with the SHARE Network, a multilevel platform promoting better refugee resettlement in local communities, to help shape the European Commission Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021–2027.
In a joint submission to the Action Plan’s online consultation process in October, ICMC Europe stressed the importance of engaging newcomers and communities in a two-way integration process based on multi-stakeholder partnerships. The NGOs recommended a rights-based approach to facilitate access to integration support and services, including legal residency and eventual citizenship. And they urged further promotion of community-based sponsorships, expanding the model to include diaspora organizations, universities, and other local groups.
ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network welcomed the Action Plan’s launch in late November, while lifting up the need to ensure that refugees, unaccompanied children, and other especially vulnerable people on the move receive targeted support as they settle into their new communities.
In the last quarter of 2020, ICMC Europe and SHARE conducted a survey of the efforts of local communities, particularly smaller and rural ones, to welcome and integrate refugees. Part of a mapping of best practices to shape future SHARE activities, the survey aimed to assess how COVID-19 has impacted integration.
The European Commission Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion should maintain a vision of integration as a two-way process … building inclusive and cohesive societies that foster active participation of newcomers and other community members alike.
ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network, submission to the European Commission online consultation on migrant integration
Welcoming Refugees in COVID Times
For the Diocese of London in Ontario, Canada, to welcome people uprooted by war, violence, or persecution as they begin anew represents a familiar journey together in prayer, action, and advocacy. A pioneer in the Canadian government’s Private Sponsorship for Refugees program, this Diocese has welcomed nearly 1,675 forcibly displaced people in its parish communities over the past five years. These efforts are a part of resettlement programming the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Canada, a national member organization of ICMC, has promoted in this and other dioceses of the country.
In 2020, COVID-19 presented a particular challenge to offering uprooted people compassion and tangible help. As the pandemic closed down public spaces and grounded flights, the Diocesan Refugee Ministry upped its efforts, adopting new ways to “ensure the need and lives of those seeking refuge are not forgotten.”
Staff shifted to virtual platforms to liaise with co-sponsors — parishes and refugees’ relatives already in Canada — to move forward with resettlement applications. Despite pandemic restrictions, the Diocese completed 300 applications in 2020, all of its annual allotment as an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder.
Members of the Al Rahmoun family, welcomed by the Mary Immaculate and St. George Parishes, Diocese of London, Canada. The Diocese sponsored nearly 1,675 forcibly displaced people in its parishes over the past five years. Photo source: St. George Parish Facebook page.
As borders closed and flights were cancelled, Refugee Ministry personnel journeyed with refugees by offering emotional support and simply listening to their concerns. “Some good things come from bad,” staff say, noting that check-in calls with vulnerable families were more frequent than in “normal” times.
The resumption of travel brought renewed hope — and new considerations such as a mandatory quarantine for international travelers and social distancing. Refugee Ministry staff ensured that refugees coming to Canada had detailed information about quarantine protocols, as well as food and basic necessities during quarantine.
The Diocese adapted its support for refugees in Canada to prevent people from falling through the cracks. The work to meet essential needs was more critical than ever, says staff member Claire Roque, a specialist for inland services for refugees.
Staff offered virtual orientation sessions and provided over 120 individuals and families with food, grocery vouchers, and COVID-19 essentials like disinfectant, masks, and hand sanitizers. Through funds for refurbished laptops, Roque’s unit also helped over 40 refugee claimants to stay connected and access online services.
“Not responding or delaying help was simply not an option for the Diocese of London Refugee Ministry,” says Roque.