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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The UN Refugee Agency; Campaign under way to increase refugee resettlement places in Europe

Most refugees are resettled in the US, Canada and Australia, but the EU will help raise places in Europe to 20,000 by 2020

The large number of asylum seekers who independently make their way to Europe has reduced support for resettlement there, said Torsten Moritz, chief executive of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, which is leading a campaign to increase the number of refugee resettlement places available in the EU to 20,000 by the year 2020. “The perception is Europe does asylum and the US does resettlement,” he said. “We’re saying: we can do more. Europe is one of the richest regions, despite the [economic] crisis, and we’re doing very little.”
The EU council recently agreed to promote a policy of increased resettlement by offering co-ordinated support and financial incentives to member states that accept refugees. “Most of the countries would be keen to get some of the EU funding, but it’s a completely voluntary thing; it’s nothing the EU can enforce,” said Mortiz. “That’s one of the reasons we felt we needed to put a quota on the table.”
Resettlement is one of three durable solutions for refugees promoted by the UN and plays a key role in the international community’s response to the needs of refugees. It gives them immediate protection and a long-lasting solution.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimates that 172, 196 people are in need of resettlement for 2012 alone.  The total number of resettlement places actually being offered by governments is approximately 80,000 per year. This means that only around half of those in need of resettlement will benefit from this life-changing solution.
European Union countries currently offer between 4,000 and 5,000 places each year, compared to over 50,000 places offered by the USA, 7,000 places by Canada and 6,000 by Australia in recent years.  more
Even within UNHCR, resettlement has its champions and its detractors, according to Amy Slaughter, chief operating officer of RefugePoint, a US-based refugee rights organisation that deploys its staff to UNHCR offices throughout sub-Saharan Africa to boost their capacity to refer refugees for resettlement. “One argument is that it’s a solution for so few and takes up a lot of resources,” she said. “In situations where the needs are vast, [resettlement] is pushed to the bottom of the priority list because they’re busy taking care of emergency needs. But it’s a vital long-term solution and it has benefits for families in terms of assets gained in countries of resettlement, such as education and finances.”

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