The United Nations refugee agency today called on Europe to play a larger role in refugee resettlement, 90 per cent of which is currently borne by the United States, Canada and Australia.
“Resettlement is an important tool of refugee protection and provides a durable solution every year for tens of thousands of refugees who cannot safely remain in their first countries of asylum, and for whom return to their countries of origin is not possible,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing in Geneva, welcoming Spain’s recent establishment of an annual refugee resettlement programme.
Spain thus became the latest of the 27-member European Union (EU) to adopt such an initiative, but currently European countries together provide only about 6 per cent of the world's resettlement opportunities.
“UNHCR would like to see more European engagement in refugee resettlement, and hopes the Spanish decision will encourage other EU Member States to follow,” Mr. Mahecic said.
Besides Spain, which set up the new initiative last week, 12 other European countries have annual resettlement programmes – the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Last year Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg also implemented ad hoc resettlement programmes.
UNHCR recently welcomed the European Commission’s proposal for the establishment of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme. In 2009, UNHCR assisted around 66,000 refugees to resettle, of whom roughly 5,000 went to European countries.