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Future-proofing resettlement policies: Next steps for resettlement and community sponsorship in the EU

Olivia Sundberg Diez , Helena Hahn , Silvia Carta

Date: 06/12/2021
Resettlement - transferring refugees to a country that can grant them permanent residence - offers safe, durable solutions to the world’s most vulnerable refugees and the countries hosting them. In recent years, the EU has placed a growing emphasis on advancing its refugee resettlement policies while also supporting community sponsorship, whereby refugees are resettled with the active help of locals. But despite this promising trend, EU annual resettlement efforts have never covered more than 2% of the refugees in need worldwide. 

If that number is to go up, the EU will need to play a more substantial role in supporting member states to develop and expand their programmes. It should use the present momentum to reinforce the humanitarian nature of resettlement, maximise the impact of resettlement efforts and meaningfully share responsibility with third countries, not least in light of COVID-19’s negative impact on resettlement operations. Finally, in expanding the available protection spaces in Europe, the EU should build on and continue supporting the innovative drive behind community sponsorship. 

This Discussion Paper puts forward several recommendations to achieve this:

1. The European Commission and EU agencies should help member states create the right conditions for increasing resettlement numbers. This entails building capacity, expertise and political willingness at the national level while supporting and investing in local communities to set up sponsorship programmes. 

2. The European Commission should improve how EU funding supports national programmes by creating stronger synergies between funding targeted directly at resettlement and sponsorship schemes and long-term integration measures. Providing adequate funding to local authorities and civil society is essential to harness their welcoming potential. 

3. Resettlement should continue to be a primarily humanitarian and solidarity instrument. The European Commission and member states should not link commitments on resettlement to third countries’ cooperation on migration but rather build relationships with refugee-hosting countries based on genuine responsibility-sharing. 

The European Commission can foster an exchange between resettlement countries on the one hand, and between them and different stakeholders involved in the refugees' arrival, reception and integration on the other. Fully supporting local authorities, civil society organisations and communities involved in refugee sponsorship across Europe to play an active part in these processes will expand and diversify the pool of entities hosting newcomers. At a time when political resistance to welcoming refugees remains a challenge, this would help create more protection spaces and more sustainable and dependable integration opportunities. 

This Discussion Paper is part of the joint project between the European Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the European Policy Centre (EPC) entitled “Future-proofing EU resettlement policies”. This project was launched in January 2021 and analyses the way forward for resettlement and community sponsorship in Europe in light of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum’s proposals, as well as practical and political challenges that call for concerted and scaled-up EU efforts.

Read the full paper here.
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