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Resettlement as a tool of protection

EMN Conference in Stockholm

Date 4 November 2016

Resettlement programmes and humanitarian admission procedures in a European context were discussed at the EMN Conference in Stockholm. Two integration workers from the Swedish municipality of Åre showed how persons entitled to protection can be successfully integrated.

Peter O’Sullivan, Resettlement Officer of the UNHCR Europe Bureau, made it clear in his presentation that the needs in terms of resettlement programmes exceed what is currently being offered by the international community several times over:

It was possible for 81,893 refugees to depart to 30 countries in resettlement programmes in 2015. If further humanitarian admission programmes are also taken into account, such as the “HAP Syrien” scheme in Germany, 107,000 people were admitted with the involvement of the UNHCR. The need for resettlement places worldwide has risen above one million individuals for the first time in 2016, and 1.2 million people are expected for 2017.

In order to counter this development, increased numbers of resettlement and humanitarian admission procedures have been implemented EU-wide in the past three decades. Twelve countries have carried out this kind of programme for the first time since 2010 alone. What is more, many Member States have introduced further humanitarian admission programmes, particularly in relation to the war in Syria. This was shown by Maurice van der Velden from the EMN Service Provider (ICF International), who presented the first findings of the EMN synthesis report entitled “Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission Programmes in Europe – what works?”.

The EU Member States admitted 56,000 people via resettlement and humanitarian admission procedures from 2011 to 2015. Furthermore, Germany, as well as Ireland, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom, have facilitated a private sponsoring scheme in recent years, within which more than 22,000 people were permitted to enter from 2011 to 2015, Germany having issued 21,500 visas.

Zwei Grafiken zeigen welche europäischen Länder von 2011 bis 2015 wie viele Schutzbedürftige über Resettlementprogramme oder humanitäre Aufnahmeverfahren aufgenommen haben. Insgesamt waren es 56.000 Source: Maurice van der Velden, EMN Service Provider – ICF International

Presentation of the findings of the national EMN studies

Joy Johnston from the UK Syrian Resettlement Programme (Home Office) presented the United Kingdom’s Special Resettlement Programme. It has reserved places for 20,000 displaced Syrians from 2014 to 2020. 2,898 individuals have been admitted so far. Furthermore, a programme for another 3,000 children and juveniles from the Middle East and North Africa was announced in 2016. Housing is a particular challenge here.

Janne Grote from the German Contact Point of the EMN described the modus operandi of the German resettlement programme, the two humanitarian admission procedures for Syria and Afghan local staff, as well as the privately-funded programmes of the Federal Länder. These four schemes have enabled a total of more than 40,000 people to be admitted to Germany in the past five years.

Admission procedures2012201320142015Persons entering per year
Resettlement3072933214811,402
HAP Syria-1,8799,9267,14718,952
Admission Procedure for Afghan Local Staff-679461,0252,038
Private sponsorship programmes for Syrians-ninini21,500

Mattia Vitiello from the National Research Council in Italy called for a further major increase in resettlement capacities in the EU Member States. The European resettlement programmes would have to considerably increase their capacities in order to protect people from the potentially fatal Mediterranean crossing, and to create an effective barrier to people smugglers.

Resettlement and integration work in Sweden

Kerstin Lindblad, deputy Head of Directorate-General for Migration and Asylum at the Swedish Ministry of Justice, reported about the long tradition of the Swedish resettlement programme since the 1950s. She stated that the Swedish experience proved the effectiveness and functionality of resettlement. Sweden admits 1,900 resettled refugees per year, but is planning to increase this number to 3,500 for 2017 and to 5,000 for 2018. Lindblad particularly stressed the 450 emergency places in Swedish resettlement via which the UNHCR can admit persons in need of protection in Sweden at very short notice (within 24 hours in some cases). She too appealed for Europe to achieve much higher admission rates within resettlement, and suggested that it should set a good example to motivate other countries and regions in the world in their resettlement efforts.

“Most of the people don’t need help, they just need us for removing some obstacles.”

Sweden stresses direct, permanent accommodation in the admitting municipalities when it comes to integrating refugees who have been resettled. Martin Söderström und Mattias Sjölund provided an insight into the integration work of the municipality of Åre in Western Sweden, which has a population of 10,500. The municipality and its work are regarded in Sweden as exemplary. Whilst, previously, a large number of the individuals who were admitted left the municipality after a time, 92 percent of those admitted now remain in Åre. Roughly 65 percent of the resettled refugees admitted have now been placed in employment after 24 months (the nationwide rate is 25 %). The success is said to be connected to the following characteristics, amongst others:

  • New arrivals are recognised as new members of the community from day one, and are also treated as such. The displaced persons are no longer regarded primarily as victims and persons permanently requiring assistance. In fact, they are asked from the outset as to their desires and needs, but also their qualifications and strengths.
  • New arrivals have access to language courses from the very beginning, where they are also helped to find work and to obtain qualifications leading to employment in the medium term. The first employment was not always in a person’s ideal occupation, but experience showed that a first job opened doors to change to a different one. The displaced persons themselves wanted to contribute to their new communities, and indeed the community expected them to do so. The host municipality and the community learns a lot from the new arrivals and benefits from them in many ways.
  • The new arrivals were said to ensure amongst other things that kindergartens were kept open which otherwise would have had to be closed. They also brought about changes amongst the established population, but integration was a multilateral process which required the host society to change too. It was important to perceive change as an opportunity which could also bring real joy.

Specific integration measures

Sjölund and Söderström explained individual specific integration measures that they had taken and which lead to this success. They personally visit neighbours in the areas in which the new arrivals are to be placed and explain who will be moving to their area soon, and why. They ask the neighbours to welcome the new members of the community in a friendly manner. They leave their contact details in case questions or complications arise.

Each child arriving in a school is assigned a sponsor, if possible some one who is of a similar origin. Experience has shown that their own experience makes them particularly aware of specific obstacles and pitfalls, and that they can offer the right support. Support at school is particularly important to enable the children to settle quickly. If the children are doing well in school, their parents are calm and happy too. The adults are also assigned a sponsor whose origin should be the same as theirs wherever possible, and the sponsors also receive financial compensation for this.

The greater effort at the beginning is worthwhile for the community in the medium term according to Sjölund and Söderström since placement in work and participation in society help reduce social benefits and make people more satisfied.

Further studies

How the conditions in the integration of resettled refugees in Germany are developing is shown by the BAMF’s new study on resettled refugees, which will be coming out in November 2016. The staff members at the BAMF’s Research Centre, Tatjana Baraulina and Maria Bitterwolf, have interviewed large numbers of resettled refugees for this as to their situations in the places in which they live in Germany in the past two years.

You can follow the links in the right-hand column to obtain more information on the speeches and presentations at the EMN Conference in Stockholm, as well as on the national EMN study.

Additional Information

Cover Working Paper 68 "Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission Programmes in Germany"

Resettlement and humanitarian admission programms in Germany

The study provides an overview of the legal stipulations, central administrative processes, selection criteria and players involved in individual humanitarian admission programmes and procedures in Germany.

More: Resettlement and humanitarian admission programms in Germany …

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