In 2022, EU states only resettled 16,695 refugees - short of its target of 20,000 and accounting for only 1.1% of global needs. This equates to an average of just 618 new arrivals via resettlement per member state.
This year, UNHCR estimates that 2 million refugees are in need of resettlement. In 2024, they expect this figure to rise by 20% to 2.4 million.
EU states which had not resettled a single refugee between 1 Jan - 31 July 2023: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.
Brussels, Belgium, 12 September 2023 — EU states together resettled fewer than 6,000 refugees in the first seven months of this year, falling behind the pace needed to reach their target of resettling almost 16,000 refugees by the end of December. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on them to meet this goal, and to make bold new resettlement pledges for 2024 and 2025 before the deadline this Friday.
Resettlement is just one - but a vitally important - safe pathway for people seeking protection. It enables some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees who are stranded in poorer countries in their region where their needs are not met to be transferred to relative safety elsewhere, such as in EU states, where they have a chance to recover and rebuild their lives.
Almost two thirds of the new arrivals (63%) resettled from 1 January to 31 July come from Syria which is facing its 12th year of war. They were followed by a relatively small proportion of arrivals from Sudan (7%), and from Afghanistan (5%) despite the stark and mounting humanitarian catastrophes unfolding in these countries. Others have fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Somalia (each representing 4% of all resettled refugees).
In the first seven months of this year, only 11 EU countries resettled refugees, according to data from UNHCR. The vast majority of all new arrivals were welcomed by Germany (45%) and France (22%). Conversely, while Sweden welcomed a quarter of all refugees resettled to the EU in 2022, so far this year it has welcomed just 3%, and Malta resettled just one single refugee. As was the case last year, the majority of EU countries had failed to resettle a single refugee by the end of July.
The European Commission has set a deadline of this Friday, 15 September, for EU leaders to make new pledges for the number of refugees they will resettle in 2024 and 2025. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) urges leaders to commit to:
- Scale up efforts to meet their commitment to resettle at least 15,897 refugees in 2023.
- Commit to resettle at least 44,000 refugees in 2024, rising to 48,000 in 2025, with a view to further scaling up to a number more proportionate to Europe’s wealth and size.
- Urgently adopt the Union Resettlement Framework to establish a more structured, predictable and longstanding EU policy on resettlement.
Read more in our joint statement signed by more than 40 NGOs and humanitarian organisations last week, calling on EU leaders to focus on seven key priorities to expand resettlement and safe pathways to Europe.
Harlem Désir, IRC’s Senior Vice President, Europe, says:
“As negotiations continue on the EU’s proposed asylum and migration reforms, leaders should be able to agree on at least one thing: refugee resettlement benefits everyone. It is a desperately-needed lifeline for some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. For the poor and middle-income countries hosting 76% of the world’s refugees, resettlement is a valuable demonstration of solidarity. And for receiving countries, including EU states, it provides a humane, structured, legal and orderly approach to welcoming people in need.
"For every pledge that remains unfulfilled, another resettlement place is wasted - leaving people trapped in limbo, playing an eternal waiting game, in a country that cannot support their needs. The IRC and other humanitarian organisations are continuing to call on states to meet their target of resettling 15,897 refugees by the end of this year. We believe it’s perfectly achievable for them to jointly welcome 44,000 people via this safe route in 2024, increasing this goal in years to come in reflection of Europe’s true capacity to welcome which is clearly much higher.”
Refugee resettlement, January - July 2023
EU state # resettled % of total
Germany 2558 45%
France 1259 22%
Finland 523 9%
Spain 423 7%
Netherlands 383 7%
Sweden 198 3%
Portugal 144 3%
Ireland 88 2%
Italy 84 1%
Belgium 35 1%
Malta 1 0%
All 5696 100%
Source: UNHCR data portal