Joint EU resettlement programme
This communication proposes a joint EU resettlement programme in order to improve European action in the international protection of refugees and to show solidarity with third countries. The purpose is to devise a strategic approach to resettlement by integrating it into EU external policy actions, and to streamline efforts to make them more cost-effective.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 2 September 2009 on the establishment of a joint EU resettlement programme [COM(2009) 447 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The communication concerns the resettlement of refugees from outside the European Union (EU) to one of the Member States. Resettlement is one of the durable solutions offered to refugees, whose needs for protection have already been established. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) usually acts as an intermediary in the resettlement process. The communication also addresses solidarity in migration management and EU protection to refugees worldwide.
Currently several Member States participate in resettlement on an annual or on an ad hoc basis. The European Refugee Fund (ERF) provides significant financial support to resettlement-related activities.
Nevertheless, the number of refugees resettled in the EU remains rather low and most Member States lack resettlement programmes. Furthermore, the Member States that are resettlement countries mostly set their priorities at the national level, instead of coordinating resettlement and the related external policy instruments at the EU level. In addition, the current ERF is not adaptable enough to respond to new and changing needs concerning resettlement. Consequently, joint EU action should aim at:
- involving more Member States and enhancing their cooperation;
- providing refugees a secure access to protection;
- expressing solidarity towards third countries;
- making better use of resettlement at the EU level;
- integrating resettlement into EU external policies;
- providing a financial incentive for Member States to resettle based on jointly defined key priorities.
A joint EU resettlement programme should be established to fully integrate resettlement in the external dimension of the EU's asylum policy and improve its strategic use. The Communication provides the following guiding principles:
- participation in resettlement should be voluntary for Member States;
- EU resettlement activities should be extended;
- the programme should be incremental and adaptable to changing circumstances;
- all stakeholders should be able to participate (international and local NGOs, local authorities, etc.).
The main components of the programme will be the setting of common annual priorities on the basis of a consultative process and financial assistance by the ERF to Member States that "pledge" to resettle refugees according to these priorities. This will allow the financial assistance to be used more effectively. The existing resettlement expert group that meets on an ad hoc basis will be transformed into a permanent body in which all Member States and stakeholders will participate. It will carry out preparatory work for identifying the common annual priorities for the EU, exchange information on Member States’ quantitative targets and assess the specific resettlement needs. The UNHCR will be closely involved in the preparatory work by providing an assessment of worldwide resettlement needs. The common annual priorities will subsequently be established by a Commission decision using the comitology procedure. They will focus on specific geographic regions, nationalities or categories of refugees, and provide for more flexibility to respond to new or urgent needs. Consequently, financial assistance under the ERF will be available to Member States resettling refugees on the basis of the common priorities.
The programme will provide for enhanced practical cooperation and improve the effectiveness of EU external asylum policies. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which will be established in 2010 to strengthen Member State practical cooperation on asylum, will play an active role in coordinating resettlement activities. The Commission will also continue to support practical cooperation projects relating to resettlement through the ERF. As part of the programme, cooperation with the UNHCR will also be intensified to identify common priorities, maximise the strategic use of resettlement, and develop and carry out practical cooperation activities. Resettlement should form an integral part of EU external asylum policies and be well coordinated with external policies as a whole. In particular, it should be consistent with the EU Global Approach to Migration. The aim is also to integrate resettlement into the future Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs).
With the support of the EASO, the Commission will annually report on resettlement progress in the EU. In addition, a mid-term evaluation will be carried out in 2012 with all relevant stakeholders. In 2014, the joint programme will be evaluated with a view to developing it further.
Resettlement has been identified as an integral element in the establishment of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), as reiterated in the European pact on immigration and asylum. In its policy plan on asylum, the Commission called for the further development of resettlement as an instrument to protect refugees.