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A new life for refugees - 02/09/2009

Iraqi refugees in Syria, holding up applications for resettlement to illustrate their plight ©EC

Proposal for programme to coordinate resettlement of refugees at the EU level.

Millions of people around the world have fled their homes because of war or fear of persecution. Most have sought asylum in nearby developing countries – Pakistan and Syria together host around 3 million for example.

Some refugees cannot go home or are unwilling to do so because they will face continued persecution. Many are also living in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. In such cases, the usual solution is resettlement – the transfer of refugees to another country of asylum.

The UN refugee agency estimates that 747 000 refugees need to be resettled. Yet fewer than 66 000 found new homes in 2008, and of those just 4 378 were resettled in the EU. This is considerably less than in other parts of the developed world, particularly the US, Canada and Australia.

This proposal, aims to boost Europe’s response to resettlement – and reduce the number of refugees who risk their lives to reach EU shores illegally.

Currently only 10 EU countries routinely resettle refugees from outside the EU, usually with little consultation or coordination among them. The plan calls for the creation of a voluntary programme to foster political and practical cooperation.

The programme is designed to make it easier and more cost-effective for countries to take in refugees. It would also enhance the humanitarian and political impact of national resettlement efforts. To encourage participation, countries would receive €4 000 for each refugee relocated under the programme.

Under the programme, an expert group would be set up to identify groups of refugees that should be given priority, for example Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan or Sudanese refugees in Chad. The new European asylum support office would help countries carry out joint activities like selection and fact-finding missions.

The proposal only concerns refugees from outside the EU. Countries would retain the right to decide which refugees to accept and how many.

 

External aspects of EU asylum policy

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