Building Knowledge for a Concerted and Sustainable Approach to Refugee Resettlement in the EU and its Member States

Joint EU Resettlement Programme

Historical background

Already in 2000, the European Commission suggested that ‘Processing the request for protection in the region of origin and facilitating the arrival of refugees on the territory of the Member States by a resettlement scheme are ways of offering rapid access to protection’ (COM/2000/0755 final). The Commission believed that only a joint EU approach could create necessary political and operational terms for accessing European territory and for allowing resettlement to be used for strategic purposes - both to assist the EU Member States and attain the objectives of UNCHR’s Agenda for Protection. In the course of the years, resettlement was recognised as the key tool for offering a durable solution. However, only limited progress was made to implement it.

During these years, the Commission argued that the coordination of resettlement activities between individual Member States was inadequate. Moreover, the European Refugees Fund (ERF) – which co-finances resettlement in the Member States - was too rigid to respond to changing needs, particularly with respect to geographical priorities. The ERF used to fund only resettlement of refugees from outside the EU to Member States, and not the relocation between Member States.

Finally, a full-fledged proposal to establish a Joint EU resettlement Programme was tabled in September 2009. The aim was to:

  • increase EU’s humanitarian impact
  • to integrate resettlement into external relations policy,
  • to streamline actions of Member States to make them more cost effective.

The proposal remained stuck between institutions mainly because of the annual priority setting and because of an argument about which decision procedure to use in connection to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.

Today we have a Joint EU resettlement programme

On 29 March 2012, the European Parliament voted on the Joint EU Resettlement Programme, already approved by the Council (6444/12). This vote paves the way for a 'Joint EU Resettlement Programme' presented by the European Commission back in 2009. This decision determines common EU resettlement priorities for 2013 and announces an increase of the compensation that Member States receive from the European Refugee Fund for resettlement of refugees. The EU Commissioner Malmström welcomed the decision, stating that it is a much-needed measure that will improve cooperation and allow the EU to pool resources for resettlement.

Priority groups

The decision targets the following priorities for resettlement:

  • Persons from a country or a region designated for the implementation of Regional Protection Programmes (COM(2005) 388 final):                                   -Newly Independent States (NIS): Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus,
    -Great Lakes Region: Tanzania,
    -Horn of Africa: Kenya, Djibouti and Yemen,
    -North Africa: Egypt, Tunisia and Libya;                                                                                                                                                                                               
  • Persons from one or more of the following vulnerable group categories: -women and children at risk, -unaccompanied minors, -survivors of violence and torture, -persons having serious medical needs, -persons in need of emergency or urgent resettlement for legal and/or physical protection needs;                                                                                                                                                         
  • Persons from a geographical location on the list of common EU priorities for 2013: -Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes Region (Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia); -Iraqi refugees in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan; -Afghan refugees in Turkey, Pakistan, Iran; -Somali refugees in Ethiopia; -Burmese refugees in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand; -Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan.

More EU funding

There will be a clear increase of funding for resettled refugees. Member States will receive a compensation for each resettled refugee falling into one or more categories mentioned above:

  • First time applicants will receive EUR 6,000 for the first year, and EUR 5,000 for the second year,
  • For the rest the compensation will remain at EUR 4,000.      

Pilot scheme in 2013 

Member States were asked to provide the Commission by 1 May 2012 with an estimate of the number of persons per category that they plan to resettle in 2013 (European Parliament News, 29 March 2012). The May deadline and the joint resettlement priorities are a novelty proposed by the European Commission; the aim is to make them a regular feature of policy-making on asylum. The scheme will be applied as a trial this year, which means that the Member States' estimates of the number of persons they plan to resettle are not binding (European Voice, 1 March 2012).


For background information on the long legislative process of the Joint EU Resettlement Programme and ERF funding:


Proposed Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) 2014- 2020

While the amendment to the ERF only covers funding in 2013, it paves the way for new rules concerning the financial support that EU Member States may receive for the resettlement of refugees from third countries through future funding during the period 2014-2020.

The Commission has proposed the Regulation establishing the Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) at the end of 2011:

The proposed funding should allow for more strategic use of resettlement during the 2014-2020 funding period, with a more focused approach to resettlement priorities that are to be set bi-annually. The AMF will support the establishment of a Union Resettlement Programme for which an amount of €560 million has been earmarked, five times the amount previously set aside for resettlement under the ERF.

The aim of the proposed funding is twofold:

- to provide durable solutions to an increased number of refugees by supporting their transfer from outside EU territory and their establishment in an EU Member State; and

- to maximise the strategic impact of resettlement through a better targeting of those persons who are in greatest need of resettlement on the basis of common EU resettlement priorities. These priorities will be established for two year periods with the involvement of the European Parliament and the Council and in cooperation with UNHCR and the European Asylum Support Office.

If adopted in the presently-proposed form, the AMF will support the resettlement of every refugee supported with 6,000 EUR per person, while the EU would fund 10,000 EUR for refugees that are covered by priority categories as stipulated in the AMF. The additional funding would relate to resettlement of refugees that are regarded as particularly vulnerable as well as refugees from certain regional priorities. The vulnerable groups would remain unchanged during the AMF period, while the regional priorities would be set on a bi-annual basis.

The proposed vulnerable refugee groups are:

– women and children at risk,

– unaccompanied minors,

– persons having medical needs that can be addressed only through resettlement,

– persons in need of emergency resettlement or urgent resettlement for legal orphysical protection needs.

In Annex III to the proposed AMF Regulation, the following common Union priorities for the first two years 2014-2015 are listed as:

1) Regional Protection Programme in Eastern Europe (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova)

2) Regional Protection Programme in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Yemen, Kenya)

3) Regional Protection Programme in North Africa (Libya, Tunisia, Egypt)

4) Refugees in the region of Eastern Africa/ Great Lakes

5) Iraqi refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan

6) Iraqi refugees in Turkey.