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Resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes in Europe – what works?

The European Migration Network has published a study on resettlement, humanitarian admission and private sponsorship programmes in the Member States of the European Union (EU) and Norway. It covers the period between 2011 and mid-2016 and includes cases from 24 countries. Despite the number of such programmes in the EU, however, the total number of resettled/admitted persons through these programmes is modest, ranging from over 5,400 in 2011 and 2012 to around 18,000 in 2014 and 2016.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has a clear role in the selection process for resettlement or humanitarian admission, and in the majority of Member States the candidate first needs to have been recognised as refugee by UNHCR. The majority of the Member States set annual or multi-year quotas, and all use their own criteria for prioritising or deprioritising candidates in the selection process. Most Member States grant the same or similar status to both refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection. In most cases, the rights granted include the right to family reunification and travel within the EU for short periods. The majority of Member States provide the refugees with information about their status and rights as well as the resettlement process itself, by means of a leaflet, guide, cultural orientation training or workshops.

The challenges and good practices reported by the Member States predominantly concern practical issues in all phases, such as problems with documents, learning the language of the receiving country and organising early medical assessments. One of the challenges identified concerns refugees’ expectations of conditions in the receiving country, and the most pressing issues identified relate to the integration phase.

The results of the study show that, although numbers are as yet small, there exists a firm basis within the EU in terms of policy and practice for setting up and further developing resettlement, humanitarian admission and private sponsorship programmes as legal pathways of migration.

With thanks to Michiel Besters
Researcher, Netherlands National Contact Point for the European Migration Network

The report, entitled Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission Programmes in Europe – what works?, is available at

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