Seven NGOs today launch a joint statement urging the EU and its member states to revive and scale up their refugee resettlement efforts, ensuring they are not rolled back or neglected as the international community shifts its focus onto the Ukraine crisis.

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 protection, and is an important expression of solidarity that can alleviate pressure on major refugee-hosting countries such as Lebanon, Ethiopia, Jordan and Uganda.

As the number of people in displacement reaches record highs, the gap between global needs and the EU’s resettlement efforts is growing fast. Unless the EU urgently reinforces its commitment to resettlement, some countries’ programmes risk being placed on hold, delayed or downscaled - a result of pressure on EU asylum systems and a lack of long-term planning around reception capacity and resettlement programming.

Today’s warning follows recent backsliding following some earlier promising steps, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is particularly disappointing that the EU never fulfilled its pledge to resettle 30,000 refugees in 2020, even after carrying this over into 2021. Last year, regardless of many COVID-related travel restrictions being lifted, only 15,660 refugees were resettled to 12 EU states. Even today, most European resettlement schemes have not returned to their pre-pandemic scale.

The European Commission announced that states have agreed to resettle 20,000 refugees in 2022 (in addition to admitting 40,000 Afghans at risk between 2021-2022) - however, these pledges have not been officially published. Even if met, these would represent just a tiny fraction of the EU’s true fair share of the more than 1.47 million people globally in need of resettlement. Alarmingly, as of the end of April, just 4,075 resettled refugees had arrived in EU countries since the start of this year.

As global resettlement needs continue to mount, the EU must significantly ramp up its commitment to resettlement - building on the unprecedented solidarity shown in response to refugees fleeing Ukraine, and investments already made into the emergency response.

States will be invited to make new resettlement pledges for next year from 1 July 2022. We’re jointly calling on the EU and its member states to:

  1. Swiftly meet their current commitment to resettle over 20,000 refugees in 2022, and to admit nearly 40,000 Afghans at risk between 2021-2022.
  2. Commit to resettling at least 40,000 refugees in 2023, in addition to fulfilling existing pledges.
  3. Adopt the Union Resettlement Framework (URF) to establish a more structured, predictable and longstanding EU policy on resettlement.

The statement is co-signed by: 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.

Read it in full here.

Harlem Désir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, says:

“The EU’s response to more than 6 million refugees fleeing Ukraine has been remarkable. Yet, this outpouring of support must not come at the expense of refugees fleeing other conflict zones and fragile states across the globe.

"As the number of people displaced globally continues to soar, EU member states must urgently reaffirm their commitment to refugee resettlement. Even before the conflict began in Ukraine, almost 1.5 million refugees were already in need of resettlement - many of whom have been stuck in limbo over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only do these delays and shortfalls have a direct impact on vulnerable people’s lives, but they pile additional pressure onto the low and middle-income countries that have long hosted the vast majority of the world’s refugees.

"The EU has a deep responsibility to reverse this trend, and stop these programmes shrinking further still. Alongside seven other NGOs, the International Rescue Committee is calling on the EU and its member states to shine a light on refugee resettlement - fulfilling their existing commitments, pledging to resettle at least 40,000 refugees next year, and adopting the Union Resettlement Framework (URF) to establish a more structured and predictable system that is capable of withstanding future shocks. This would be well within Europe’s immediate ability, but should be followed by further ambitious pledges, scaling up EU programmes in the coming years to meet a larger proportion of resettlement needs, more in line with its global responsibilities. The IRC believes that the EU should welcome 250,000 refugees through resettlement by the end of 2025.  

"During this upcoming pledging moment, EU leaders must demonstrate that they stand in solidarity with all refugees, regardless of their country of origin. It’s time to build on the momentum towards refugee protection generated by the Ukraine crisis to kickstart EU resettlement, and make these programmes fit for the future.”