Geneva, 15 June 2016 — The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since WWII. At this year’s Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), 34 NGOs made an urgent call on all parties to support the UN Secretary General’s goal: for States to provide resettlement spaces and additional legal channels for at least 10 per cent of the global refugee population annually. This is the kind of bold responsibility sharing needed to respond to this historic challenge, the NGOs say.

Humane solution

“There is no doubt about it: resettlement saves lives. It prevents deaths at sea and it makes it harder for smugglers to exploit refugees for profit” says Jasper Kuipers, deputy director of the Dutch Council for Refugees and NGO co-chair of this year’s ATCR. Resettlement provides a humane solution for the most vulnerable refugees. It is also crucial that quality integration programs remain part of resettlement and alternative pathways.

Increase pledges

In the run up to the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September in New York, efforts are underway to double the number of resettlement slots to 340.000 for next year. This still falls far short of the 1.2 million refugees currently in need of resettlement according to UNHCR. “The Summit is a critical opportunity for States to show leadership by committing to resettle significantly more refugees. Given the staggering size and scope of the global refugee crisis, the time for action is now. Greatly increasing resettlement is fundamentally the right thing to do” adds Naomi Steinberg, director of Refugee Council USA.

Other safe and legal channels

In order to move towards the much needed ten per cent, sizable quality resettlement programs should be introduced by those countries, which have not already done so. The quotas of existing resettlement programs should increase significantly. Complementary safe and legal channels should be dramatically expanded. For example, refugees should be able to access extended family reunification, labour mobility schemes, student scholarships, private sponsorships, medical evacuation and humanitarian visas. These additional pathways can be crucial for refugees who are unable to access resettlement.

Resettle other refugee groups besides Syrians

The NGOs stress that other groups of refugees besides Syrians, such as Somalis, Afghans and Rohingyas, who are in protracted refugee situations, should not be overlooked when it comes to opening up resettlement places. Also in other regions such as the Africa and South West Asia resettlement needs remain high. Access to resettlement should be equitable – reaching refugees in need regardless of location or degree of media attention.

EU-Turkey deal: a bad example

Resettlement should be offered irrespective of political agendas. NGOs strongly condemn the EU-Turkey deal that has made resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU conditional on individuals being returned from Greece to Turkey. Catherine Woollard, ‎Secretary General of ECRE, European Council on Refugees and Exiles says: “This deal is nothing more than a shameful one-for-one trading in human beings and implies large-scale returns between countries that do not ensure refugee protection. We cannot let this EU-Turkey deal set a precedent for other States to follow”.

Involvement of NGOs

NGOs play an invaluable role in all aspects of the resettlement process, from identification to the successful settlement of refugees. Partnerships between States and NGOs should be set up or strengthened to make sure that lives can continue to be saved through resettlement. We, as NGOs, stand ready to help our governments receive these newcomers into our communities.

Further information: Johanna Tervo, Humanitarian Adviser, Finn Church Aid, johanna.tervo(at)kua.fi, tel. +358 40 631 38 37.

See the statement in video:
Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) 2016 – NGO Statement

This joint press release is supported by the Dutch Council for Refugees, Refugee Council USA , ECRE, AMES Australia, Amnesty International Australia, Auckland Refugee Community, British Refugee Council, Canadian Council for Refugees, Caritas Austria, Caritas Internationalis, Danish Refugee Council, Ethiopian Community Development Center USA, Finn Church Aid, Forum Refugiés, Foundation House, HIAS, ICMC, ICVA, IRC, ISSofBC, Japan Association for Refugees, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, MYAN, Refugee Action UK, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Refugee Council Australia, Refugee Rights, Refugees as Survivors, RefugePoint, Romanian National Council for Refugees, Settlement Council of Australia, SSI, Swiss Refugee Council, WUSC.