UNHCR hails 10 years of UK’s refugee resettlement programme, warns of growing global needs
London, 19 March 2014 (UNHCR) - Welcoming important and life-saving results of the United Kingdom’s decade-old Gateway refugee resettlement programme, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, also warned today of a rapidly growing gap between the needs of the global refugee population and existing durable solutions for their plight.
More than 5,500 refugees have been resettled to the UK under the auspices of the Gateway programme over the past ten years. From several hundred in its beginnings, Gateway has grown to benefit an annual quota of 750 resettled refugees in recent years.
Marking the 10th anniversary of the programme, the UNHCR Representative to the UK,
Roland Schilling, commented: "Gateway is another example of the UK´s longstanding tradition of accepting people fleeing conflict and persecution. It is also the UK's direct and important contribution to UNHCR's refugee resettlement efforts and search for durable solutions for millions of refugees globally. Gateway is a life-saving and life-changing programme for the world's most vulnerable refugees. The value of such programmes cannot be overstated. For many refugees sheltered in camps or fending for themselves, resettlement means the difference between life and death."
Resettlement is one of three solutions that may be available to refugees. Most refugees either eventually return to their home countries or are integrated locally in the country of asylum. However, for some of the most vulnerable refugees, resettlement to a third country offers the only possible solution.
There is, though, a widening gap between global resettlement needs and available places as well as a drop in actual departures for resettlement. On average, 80,000 refugee resettlement places are globally available each year. It is estimated that currently more than 690,000 refugees are in need of resettlement as a solution, without considering the resettlement needs generated by the massive Syrian refugee crisis.
"We encourage states to come forward with more places as anything less will mean that tens of thousands of vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement will remain without any solution. These people have no alternative. Failure to resettle them means that these people remain in perilous situations," said Roland Schilling.
In January, UNHCR welcomed the announcement of the UK authorities to offer additional places to hundreds of vulnerable Syrian refugees through the Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme. In order to find solutions for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, and to ease the growing pressure on and show solidarity with the neighbouring countries hosting the massive Syrian refugee population of more than 2.5 million people, UNHCR has also appealed to resettlement countries to make available 30,000 resettlement places this year and 100,000 in 2015 and 2016.