Six major civil society organisations and networks today release a joint statement urging the EU and its member states to revive and scale up their refugee resettlement efforts ahead of a key opportunity to rally pledges, the EU Resettlement Forum, on 9th July.

Resettlement is one of the few safe, legal pathways available for vulnerable refugees to reach the EU - including from countries neighbouring crises areas and those with low- and middle-incomes, which currently host 86% of the world’s refugees, such as Lebanon, Libya and Uganda.  

Last year, refugee resettlement plummeted to the lowest levels in decades - largely due to COVID-related travel restrictions and the limited number of places made available by states worldwide. Despite more than 1.44 million people being in need of resettlement, fewer than 35,000 refugees were resettled globally in 2020 - a decline of 69% on the year before.

The EU’s member states (including the UK) resettled just a fraction of a percent of these 1.44 million refugees - only 9,119 in total - falling far short of their commitment to welcome almost 30,000 people through this route in 2020. Their failure to make new pledges for 2021 has simply compounded this problem, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable refugees trapped in limbo.

With a new record of 1.47 million refugees expected to be in need of resettlement in 2022, it’s clear that the EU needs to significantly ramp up its efforts and strive towards welcoming its fair share of people in need. We’re calling on the EU and its member states to revive global leadership on resettlement, including by:

The statement is co-signed by: International Rescue Committee, 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 the statement in full here

Imogen Sudbery, IRC Director of Policy and Advocacy for Europe, says:

“Now that EU countries are recovering from COVID-19, it is perfectly possible for them to welcome more of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, including the tens of thousands who remain stuck in limbo as their departure flights were grounded due to the pandemic. This week’s EU Resettlement Forum must be a watershed moment - a chance to make up for their lack of progress in 2020, and commit to ambitious new pledges for 2022. After a lost few years of refugee resettlement, they must seize this opportunity to reassert their humanitarian leadership, or risk undermining years of hard-earned progress.”

Torsten Moritz, Secretary General of Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME):

“Recent UNHCR figures show that the EU is shouldering only a minor part of global responsibilities for refugee protection. Resettlement is an excellent way to demonstrate how the EU can and must do more.”

Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa says:

“Ironically, as we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum protection in Europe has been increasingly under threat. While developing countries are hosting almost 90% of the world’s refugees, EU Member States must urgently demonstrate global solidarity on refugee protection and step up resettlement - a crucial humanitarian option with the potential to provide a safe pathway for people in need of protection. In line with the ambitions in the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum to boost resettlement, we insist that EU states resettle at least 36,000 people in 2022, on top of the 2020 target. 1.47 million refugees are expected to be in need of resettlement next year and action is needed now!”  

Petra Hueck, Director of ICMC Europe / SHARE Network:

“As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually being lifted across Europe, regions, municipalities, NGOs and volunteers are preparing to welcome refugees. Refugees have had to wait too long to rebuild their lives. Mobilising our local communities, we can all together add to the number of resettlement places. Let’s not lose the momentum!”

Notes to editors