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Resettlement and humanitarian admission in European countries

Conference organised by the French National Contact Point of the European Migration Network, held in Paris on 6 October 2017.

Date 20 October 2017

The exchange which took place at the conference organised by the French National Contact Point of the European Migration Network, held in Paris, showed that resettlement and humanitarian admission are becoming more and more important for the European Union.

Pierre-Antoine Molina‚ Director-General of Foreigners in France at the Ministry of the Interior, emphasised in his opening speech the degree to which resettlement is becoming increasingly important as a legal channel for refugees, both worldwide and in the European Union. With regard to France, this was shown in the admission figures: Whilst only 100 persons per year had been admitted via the resettlement procedure up to 2013, the figure was set to rise to 10,000 persons in this year. The admission rates under the EU-Turkey Agreement and EU relocation from Italy and Greece are already included in this figure. The recommendation made by the European Commission (3 October 2017) to provide a total of 50,000 resettlement places in the EU Member States by 31 October 2019 was said in a European context to indicate a considerable increase vis-à-vis previous resettlement capacities. France would do its part within the procedure. Molina stated that in particular the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migration’ (see right-hand column) from 19 September 2016 underlined the significance of humanitarian admission programmes at global level in that 193 States had decided in the Resolution that had been passed by the UN General Assembly to expand resettlement and humanitarian reception programmes.

The expansion of humanitarian admission programmes, including resettlement, was said to provide a helpful tool here in order to manage and reduce irregular entries, but should not be misunderstood as a general migration management tool, according to Molina. The expansion of the capacities was however said to also entail new challenges when it came to logistics and security controls which needed to be taken into consideration when topping up the number of places.

Three man an two women are sitting on a podiumfrom left to right: Pierre-Antoine Molina, Janne Grote, Séverine Origny-Fleishman, Joël Schoneveld, Jenny Cann (conceald) und Joy Johnston Source: Interior Ministry of France|A.Lejeune

Resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes in the EU – an overview of the situation in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom


Séverine Origny-Fleishmann, Head of the Asylum Law Department within the Directorate-General of Foreigners in France, started by explaining the selection process applied in the French resettlement procedure. The central selection criteria are the UNHCR’s proposals, plus family ties in France. Unlike in other countries such as Germany, no weight was attached to any ‘integration potential’.

In addition to resettlement, which is reserved for displaced persons outside their country of origin, France issues "humanitarian visas". The national reception procedure can be used to receive domestically-displaced persons from crisis countries, such as from Iraq. French embassies issue entry visas on instruction from the French Interior Ministry for vulnerable individuals, who then have to apply for asylum on arrival in France. There is no need for the UNHCR to assess whether they qualify as refugees.

At the initiative of various Christian organisations, a new private sponsorship programme was launched for displaced persons in France for the first time in March 2017. Five Protestant and Catholic groups will be receiving 500 vulnerable persons from Syria and Iraq until the end of 2018 as part of the programme. Religious affiliation is not a selection criterion. The organisations themselves make the selection, which is then confirmed by the French Government once the requisite security checks have been carried out. The persons who are received are flown to France from Lebanon and looked after by host families. The programme is orientated in line with a similar programme that was launched in Italy in 2016 under the responsibility of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is planned to see to it that 700 vulnerable persons are received by Christian organisations.

Distribution within France

Unlike in Germany, resettlement refugees are not automatically distributed among the municipalities in France. The municipalities must first state their willingness to receive such refugees. Jean-Jacques Brot, responsible in the Interior Ministry for organising the reception of refugees, travels around France and lobbies the municipalities to receive people within the resettlement programme.

Virginie Guérin-Robinet (Director of the Migration Research Department at the French Interior Ministry), also stated that a matching procedure was implemented in France for distribution among the municipalities in which the needs of those eligible for protection as well as their professional backgrounds were taken into account. If a person who was to be received had previously worked in agriculture, attempts were made to ascertain whether they could be placed in a predominantly agricultural area where appropriate occupational prospects might be available.

Nadia Djilali (French Education Ministry) closed by providing an overview of the integration of refugee children and young people into the French school system. No more than five refugee children were placed in a standard class as a rule, and an inclusive approach was followed at all times. In other words, no special refugee or foreigners’ classes were introduced. Having said that, up to 12 hours per week of separate integration and language courses were offered for newly-immigrated children in addition to regular lessons. The Ministry also carries out further training for all teachers and head teachers who come into contact with refugee children and young people. There were also language and orientation courses for refugee parents providing them with information about the school system. Videos about the school system as well as bilingual brochures were available for the latter in a variety of languages.


For Germany, Janne Grote from the national EMN contact point started by providing an overview of seven (humanitarian) reception procedures which were carried out in Germany in recent years, some of which are still underway

 Source: BAMF|*Baden-Württemberg

When it comes to the relocation procedure from Italy and Greece, the persons to be admitted still need to go through the asylum procedure. With regard to the other procedures, the protection status was previously established, or other criteria were decisive for reception (see study in the right-hand column).

Grote went on to report in detail about resettlement, HAP Syria and the privately-funded admission programmes of the Federal Länder regarding the respective selection criteria, the organisational procedures applying to departures, initial reception in Germany, as well as commonalities and differences when it comes to the conditions applying to family reunification, the period of validity of a residence permit, the right to attend integration courses and access to the labour market, as also prepared in the study carried out by the European Migration Network on “Resettlement and humanitarian reception in Germany” (2016).

Five women and one man are sitting on a podium behind a table from left to right.: Nadia Djilali, Virginie Guérin-Robinet, Jean-Jaques Brot, Virginie Lasserre, Caroline Bussiere, Sylvie Germain Source: Interior Ministry of France|A.Lejeune

The Netherlands

Joël Schoneweld, Head of the Resettlement Programme in the Netherlands, reported on the procedure which has been in operation in the Netherlands since 1978 with an annual contingent of 500 vulnerable individuals. 400 of these people are directly selected by Dutch selection teams in neighbouring countries and in UNHCR refugee camps in transit countries in the crisis regions or in Dutch embassies. The selection teams are always accompanied in this by a police officer who is responsible for registration and for security checks. 100 places per year within the contingent are reserved for particularly vulnerable persons and emergency cases, who are exclusively selected directly via proposals put forward by the UNHCR. As is the case in Germany, a residence permit is initially issued for three years, and it can then be converted to a settlement permit (unlimited residence title). 

A particularity pertaining to the Dutch reception programmes is the link between the resettlement and EU relocation procedures from Italy and Greece. Unlike the other EU Member States, the Dutch authorities send selection teams to Italy and Greece in order to ascertain vulnerability. Only then do they permit entry to the Netherlands. 

The United Kingdom

Jenny Cann and Joy Johnston from the UK Home Office provided an overview of the situation in the United Kingdom. A resettlement programme was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1995. An annual contingent of 750 resettlement places was established in 2004 as part of the ‘Gateway Protection Programme’. The ‘Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme’ (VPRS) was launched in 2014/15, via which more than 8,500 vulnerable persons have now been admitted. The ‘Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme’ (VCRS) was added in 2016, which is to enable 3,000 minor refugees to be admitted. Individuals who are admitted are given a five-year residence permit, including a subsequent option for indefinite residence status.

Additionally, a ‘Community Sponsorship Programme’ was introduced in 2016. The sponsor must be a registered charitable organisation or a community interest company. The sponsors must both obtain the agreement of the receiving municipality and show a resettlement plan, which is examined by the UK Home Office. The security check on the individuals to be received is also carried out by the Home Office. No family ties are required.

Looking to Canada

Jean-Christophe Dumont (OECD) reported on the Canadian Private Sponsorship Programme. He stressed the fact that the sponsors only need to sign a one-year declaration of commitment, something which contrasts starkly with the five-year period practiced in Germany. This was said to permit a more valid cost estimate and to permit sponsors to minimise their risk, according to Dumont. There was furthermore a need to take account of the fact in all Private Sponsorship Programmes when issuing a reception permit that sponsors may also fail to live up to their social responsibility associated with reception.

At the same time, Dumont emphasised the positive, long-lasting experience with the Private Sponsorship Programme in Canada (since 1979), and presented evaluation results of the programme with regard to labour market integration. He stated that more than 50 percent of the individuals who had been admitted were able to show that they were in employment from the outset. Over the years, this is a much larger number than among persons seeking protection who receive protection status via the asylum procedure.

The experience gathered from the Private Sponsorship Programmes in various countries around the world is also currently being summarised in the “Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative” (GRSI), which was launched in December 2016, and which is headed by the Canadian Government, the UNHCR, the Open Society Foundation, the Radcliffe Foundation and the University of Ottawa.

Further information, as well as the abovementioned study on resettlement and humanitarian reception procedures in Germany, can be found in the right-hand column.

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