Migration and Home Affairs

External aspects

The EU shares responsibility for managing refugees with non-EU countries and countries of first asylum. With the goal of improving the management of refugee flows and enhancing protection capacities in the regions from which many refugees originate, the EU is thus stepping up its cooperation with non-EU countries. To make this cooperation concrete, the Commission undertook to develop EU Regional Protection Programmes and Resettlement schemes.

Regional Protection Programmes

EU Regional Protection Programmes are designed to enhance the capacity of non-EU countries in the regions from which many refugees originate, or through which they pass in transit. They improve refugee protection through durable solutions, namely return, local integration and resettlement. They involve practical actions supported through EU financing, delivering real benefits both in terms of protection offered to refugees and arrangements with non-EU countries in support of refugees.

These practical actions can be related to improving general protection in the host country, establishing an effective procedure for determining refugee status, building capacity and training on protection issues for those working with refugees, support measures benefiting the local community hosting refugees, etc. Regional Protection Programmes are developed by the Commission in close collaboration with EU States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and in partnership with the countries of origin, transit and first asylum, which receive a far greater percentage of the world’s refugees than the EU does.

The first two Regional Protection Programmes targeted Eastern Europe (in particular Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) as a region of transit and the African Great Lakes Region (particularly Tanzania) as a region of origin. In 2010, the Commission decided to prolong the Regional Protection Programmes in Eastern Europe and in Tanzania and to apply the Regional Protection Programme concept to two new regions: the Horn of Africa (including Kenya, Yemen and Djibouti) and eastern North Africa (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia).

Resettlement of refugees in the EU

The number of refugees resettled in the EU is quite low and contrasts with the numbers taken in by other industrialised countries (although the EU receives many more spontaneous asylum-seekers than countries like the United States or Canada, which lead resettlement efforts worldwide). Furthermore, a majority of EU States have no resettlement programme at all. To involve more EU States in resettlement activities, to provide for orderly and secure access to protection for those resettled and to demonstrate greater solidarity with non-EU countries in receiving refugees, the EU adopted, in March 2012, a joint Resettlement Programme. This EU-wide resettlement scheme, proposed by the Commission in 2009, will help EU States, on a voluntary basis, in finding sustainable solutions for refugees.

The central element of the EU Resettlement Programme is a mechanism allowing for the setting of common annual priorities on resettlement, as well as more effective use of financial assistance available through the European Refugee Fund and designed for resettlement activities. It also provides for strengthened practical cooperation and enhancing the effectiveness of external asylum policies. The resettlement framework set up by the Commission would allow, on an annual basis, the identification of arising or new and priority resettlement needs.