Tomorrow (29 November), global leaders will meet for a High-Level Forum on Legal Pathways hosted by the European Commission. This is a vital opportunity for the EU and its member states, as well as the US, UK and Canada to make bold commitments to expand resettlement and other safe routes to protection for refugees.

Of the 100 million people displaced globally, more than 83% are hosted in low and middle-income countries. However, global leaders have yet to adequately scale up their efforts to expand safe and regular ways for refugees to reach protection.

Despite the UN warning that some 1.5 million people are in need of resettlement this year, as of the end of October just 3.2% of this total - 47,372 refugees - have been welcomed via this route. Within this tiny proportion, the United States has resettled 18,676 refugees, followed by Canada (8,824), Germany (3,500), Sweden (3,397) and France (2,516). 

Resettlement is a critical tool for vulnerable refugees to reach safe countries and rebuild their lives. It is both a vital lifeline for people seeking protection, and a way to ease pressure on major refugee-hosting countries such as Lebanon, Ethiopia and Uganda.

As global leaders meet to discuss this important issue, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls on them to urgently ramp up their refugee protection efforts, with specific attention to the situations in Afghanistan and Ukraine. They must:


David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee says:

“Global leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities when it comes to refugee protection. This High-Level Forum needs to spark a fundamental change in approach - inspiring those with the power to drive real change to lead by example, and work jointly to provide a lifeline to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The IRC has identified three key ways that leaders can show true humanitarian leadership on this vital issue.

First, resettlement and other targets matter. They help to set the right kind of accountability. However, it’s not good enough for these goals to be aspirational, they must be implemented in full. We believe the EU is perfectly capable of resettling more than 40,000 refugees in 2023, the UK must set a target of 10,000 resettlement places per year, and others with ambitious targets including the US must put policies in place to ensure their goals are achieved. It’s also critical that governments commit to growing their resettlement programmes so they are resilient and fit for the future.

Second, resettlement alone is not enough. People need additional safe, regular ways to access protection. The outpouring of support for people fleeing crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan has highlighted the widespread willingness to support, welcome and integrate refugees. Governments should build on this positive momentum to scale up work and education visas, community sponsorship, and other durable pathways for people to start afresh and rebuild their lives.

Third, asylum is a human right. We’re witnessing a growing trend towards states pushing people back from borders and undermining their right to asylum. This is illegal and must stop. It’s critical that global leaders commit to ensuring everyone in need has access to fair and humane asylum systems - whatever their country of origin, or their mode of arrival. 

This Forum is a crucial first step. However, it needs to be the start of a much greater push towards transatlantic leadership on expanding pathways to safety. Global leaders must seize this opportunity to inject new momentum into refugee protection. If they fail to do so, millions of people in desperate circumstances will continue to pay the price.”