Across the world, many refugees do not benefit from satisfactory integration into their host country. They are sometimes compelled to stay in camps, are often denied access to employment, and even the protection from which they benefit is occasionally inadequate. Resettlement is one of the three sustainable solutions designed for victims of persecution. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) looks at the individual refugees concerned and decides whether return to the country of origin or local integration in the first reception country is not a (better) solution. It is only once these two options have been excluded that resettlement is considered.
A complement to asylum
Since 2009, Belgium regularly organises resettlement operations, together with the UNHCR and the European Union. Since 2013 Belgium has a structural resettlement programme, which means that our country offers every year protection to a number of vulnerable refugees.
Resettlement is entirely complementary to the national asylum procedure. By making efforts in the area of resettlement, Belgium ensures an integrated policy of international protection. On the one hand, protection can be offered to asylum seekers who arrive here spontaneously by means of the national asylum procedure. On the other hand, by means of resettlement, protection can also be provided to the world's most vulnerable refugees.
European Union: resources and a policy framework
In the past, several Member States implemented resettlement programmes for refugees, in a structural or intermittent manner. Nevertheless, the number of refugees resettled within the European Union remained modest in comparison with world figures. Not all Member States had resettlement programmes. Moreover, the Member States which carried out resettlement broadly set their priorities at national level, without much coordination at European Union level.
Based on these two observations, the European Commission proposed that annual common priorities be defined. These priorities are focused on geographical regions, nationalities or specific categories of refugees and offer a certain flexibility to respond to new or urgent needs.
The European Parliament adopted the Joint European Resettlement Programme on 29 March 2012. From 2013, Member States who commit to supporting the resettlement of refugees according to these priorities, will receive increased financial aid from the European Refugee Fund, and later from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
It’s in this context that Belgium has been committed since 2013 to resettling a quota of refugees annually, implementing its first structural resettlement programme.