11 May 2023 — As EU leaders discuss refugee resettlement this week, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that member states need to urgently expand safe and regular routes to protect people in need.
Resettlement is one of the few safe and regular pathways for vulnerable refugees to reach the EU. It can be a lifeline for people seeking lasting safety, and is an important expression of solidarity that can alleviate pressure on major refugee-hosting countries such as Türkiye, Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda.
Global resettlement needs have been mounting rapidly, with a record 2 million refugees in need of this vital lifeline in 2023, up from 1.47 million last year. Yet, EU commitments have failed to keep pace. In 2022, despite pledging to welcome over 20,000 refugees through this pathway, EU states collectively resettled just 16,695 refugees, accounting for only 1.1% of global needs. This equates to an average of just 618 new arrivals via resettlement per member state.
According to UNHCR, only 11 EU countries resettled any refugees last year. However, three quarters of these people arrived in just three countries - Germany (28.2%), Sweden (26.7%) and France (18.5%). Alarmingly, the majority of member states, including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Luxembourg, Greece, Poland and Portugal failed to resettle a single refugee.
This week, the EU launches its resettlement pledging cycle, inviting member states to make refugee resettlement pledges for 2024 and 2025 over the coming months. The IRC is calling on the EU and its member states to take bold steps towards:
- Meeting their current commitment to resettle at least 15,897 refugees in 2023.
- Commiting to resettling at least 44,000 refugees in 2024 - an achievable average of just over 1,500 people per member state - with a view to further scaling up to a number more proportionate to Europe’s wealth and size.
- Adopting the Union Resettlement Framework (URF) to establish a more structured, predictable and longstanding EU policy on resettlement.
Harlem Desir, the IRC’s Senior Vice President, Europe, says:
“At this time of mounting needs, refugee resettlement is absolutely critical - not only for the two million refugees awaiting a lifeline, but to support the low and middle-income countries that host about 74% of the world’s refugees. It is also a fundamental building block to forging a humane, effective EU asylum and migration system that is fit for the future - capable of supporting some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, rather than leaving them trapped in limbo or pushed to risk dangerous routes towards protection.
"In recent years, the EU’s resettlement pledges have been modest at best, and far below their capacity. While fewer than 17,000 people reached Europe via this route last year, EU states welcomed some 8 million refugees forced to flee Ukraine, proving that swiftly welcoming people with dignity and respect, as well as legal protection and access to social services, can be done in a way that brings benefits to both refugees and local communities alike.
"We urge all EU states to build on the momentum towards refugee protection generated by the Ukraine response, and commit to ambitious pledges to resettle more refugees in need in 2024 and 2025 in line with the EU’s international commitments.”
EU resettlement statistics from 2022
Country of resettlement
People resettled in 2022
All EU countries
* Source: UNHCR Data Portal