The International Rescue Committee warns that the EU must urgently kickstart its resettlement efforts, as new figures reveal that a record 2 million people are expected to be in need of resettlement globally in 2023 - a stark increase of 36% on the projected figure of 1.47 million people in 2022.

Next year, Syrian refugees are projected to have the highest resettlement needs for the seventh year running, followed by those from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Myanmar. The Central Mediterranean route - including Libya and countries across the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa - also remains a key priority for the coming year in light of the serious protection risks faced by refugees and other migrants in the region. 

Just over 39,000 refugees globally departed for resettlement in 2021. The United States accounted for 29.4% of these departures and Canada for 14.8%, followed by Germany (13.7%), Sweden (12.8%) and Norway (7.3%).

Harlem Desir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, said:

“This huge increase in global resettlement needs is a clarion call for EU leaders. The steep uptick makes it crystal clear they must urgently kickstart refugee resettlement and commit to welcoming more than 40,000 refugees through this route in 2023 - ramping up investment in resettlement programmes, rather than allowing them to be rolled back as attention remains focused on the crisis in Ukraine.

In 2021, EU states resettled only 15,660 refugees, accounting for less than 1.1% of the 1.47 million people in need of resettlement. Even this year, despite most COVID-related travel restrictions being lifted, just 4,075 resettled refugees had arrived in EU countries as of the end of April. At this time of mounting needs, this is simply not good enough. Every single delay and shortfall has a direct impact on people’s lives, while piling additional pressure onto the low- and middle-income countries that today host 83% of the world’s refugees.

In stark contrast, Europe managed to welcome more than 5 million refugees fleeing Ukraine in just a few months, demonstrating something we have long known: the EU is perfectly capable of welcoming refugees with humanity, dignity and respect, when it has the will to do so.

The IRC last week joined six other civil society organisations to raise the alarm on refugee resettlement, warning that unless the EU urgently reinforces its commitment to resettlement, some countries' programmes risk being placed on hold, delayed or downscaled. Instead, the EU and its member states must revive and expand this critical lifeline. Not only do they need to live up to their pledge to resettle over 20,000 refugees in 2022, but make bold new commitments for next year. This is well within Europe’s immediate ability, and should be followed by further ambitious pledges in the coming years to meet a larger proportion of resettlement needs - in line with its global responsibilities. 

In just a few weeks, EU states will be invited to begin making resettlement pledges for 2023. This is a golden opportunity for the EU to make its stated goal of becoming a global leader in refugee resettlement a reality. We urge EU leaders to build on the momentum towards refugee protection generated by the Ukraine crisis, and demonstrate that they stand in solidarity with all refugees - regardless of their country of origin.” 

Read our joint resettlement statement here, co-signed by the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International EU, Caritas Europa, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Europe / SHARE Network, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), and the Red Cross EU Office.