Seventy years ago, the UN General Assembly mandated UNHCR with the task “of seeking permanent solutions for the problem of refugees.” In the intervening years, millions of refugees from every region of the world have found meaningful protection through resettlement. Last year, the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) marked 25 years of support to resettlement outcomes around the theme, “Celebrating the positive impact of resettlement and providing inspiration for the future.” This year, a virtual ATCR, adjusted to the necessities of the pandemic, is bringing together a community of stakeholders committed to maintaining and increasing resettlement and exploring the potential of complementary pathways. This whole-of-society approach called for by the Global Compact on Refugees requires not only an increasing diversity of actors in support of resettlement and complementary pathways but ensuring that refugees themselves are front and centre as active participants in achieving durable solutions.
In 2019, against a backdrop of continuing large-scale forced displacement, resettlement and complementary pathways remained important tools for protection and solutions for some of the world’s refugees most at risk and tangible demonstrations of solidarity and responsibility-sharing. During the year, UNHCR submitted a total of 81,671 refugees for resettlement consideration to 29 countries. Three-quarters of the refugees submitted originated from just five countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) and Somalia, all of which suffer from protracted conflict or insecurity.
Despite higher submissions in 2019, only 4.5 per cent of the global resettlement needs were met in 2019, meaning only a small fraction of those at risk found a safe and lasting solution to their plight. In the current global context, with ongoing conflict preventing refugees from safely returning home, overburdened asylum systems that limit possibilities of local integration, and the emergence of a global pandemic further impacting the precarious situation of many refugees, the need for increased resettlement opportunities is more urgent than ever.
With one of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees to expand refugees’ access to third-country solutions as a means of achieving comprehensive refugee responses, in June 2019 UNHCR and stakeholders launched “The ThreeYear Strategy (2019-2021) on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways”
(hereinafter, the Three-Year Strategy). The vision of the Three-Year Strategy is to have three million refugees benefit from third country solutions through resettlement to 50 countries (one million) and complementary pathways (two million) by the end of 2028. While in 2019 over 63,000 refugees assisted by UNHCR were resettled to 29 countries, surpassing the target of 60,000 set in the Three-Year Strategy, owing to the COVID-19 situation it is unlikely that the 2020 target of resettling 70,000 refugees to 31 countries will be met.
The regional and country chapters of the 2021 Projected Global Resettlement Needs (PGRN) document contain more detailed information on the 1.445 million refugees identified in need of this key durable solution in the coming year. The total needs for 2021 are slightly higher than those of 2020 and continue to reflect both protracted and more recent refugee situations in more than 62 countries of asylum.
This Chapter first sets out estimated global resettlement needs and priorities for 2021 based on figures provided by UNHCR field offices around the world, followed by statistical updates for 2019, including resettlement submissions and departures figures, and an outline of the most important trends and developments.
The Chapter then outlines the main elements of UNHCR’s Three-Year Strategy, summarizing initiatives, partnerships and frameworks to support the delivery and expansion of the global resettlement programme in order to achieve the resettlement goals of the Three-Year Strategy.
In 2021, UNHCR estimates that global resettlement needs will slightly increase to 1,445,383 persons, as compared to 2020 when 1,440,408 were estimated to be in need of resettlement. This increase is reflected in all regions except for Africa. Despite an eight per cent decrease in the needs from last year, the Africa region remains the region with the highest projected resettlement needs, at nearly 617,000 for 2021.
For the fifth year in a row, at just over 592,000 individuals, Syrian refugees represent the population with the highest global resettlement needs. Syrian refugees account for 41 per cent of the total needs globally, up from 40 per cent in 2020. For 2021, refugees from DRC and South Sudan are estimated to have the second and third highest needs globally, with around nine per cent each.
Refugees from Afghanistan, at seven per cent of the needs, and Sudanese refugees, with six per cent of the total global needs, round out the top five.
The projected resettlement needs out of the Africa region (616,958 refugees) cover more than 32 different countries of asylum and represent 43 per cent of the total global needs. These needs reflect numerous protracted refugee situations across the continent, such as that of the Congolese, Central Africans, Eritreans, Somalis and Sudanese; ongoing instability in countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria and South Sudan; and mixed migration flows across the Sahel Region.
Projected resettlement needs in the Americas region increased significantly for 2021 (by 489 per cent compared to 2020) and stand at 29,374 individuals.
Venezuelan refugees represent 72 per cent of those needs, as the deteriorating human rights and socio economic situation in Venezuela have resulted in over five million people fleeing the country by the beginning of 2020, the vast majority of whom have fled to other countries in the Americas.
The projected resettlement needs for the Asia and the Pacific region have remained stable from 2020 to 2021 with a one per cent increase (99,470 in 2021 compared to 98,281 in 2020). Afghan refugees continue to make up the largest population group in need, with 82,000 in Iran alone.
For 2021, the resettlement needs in Europe again remain high, increasing by one per cent from the previous year (from 420,000 in 2020 to 423,600 in 2021).
Syrian refugees represent over 90 per cent of the needs out of Turkey at 383,000 individuals, with refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq each making up four per cent of the needs. The majority of refugees in Turkey find themselves in protracted situations.
An eleven per cent increase in resettlement needs is estimated in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for 2021 (from 249,705 in 2020 to 275,981 in 2021). Three-quarters of the needs are for Syrian refugees (209,085), followed by Iraqi (23,625), Eritrean (14,550), and Sudanese refugees (10,815).