What is refugee resettlement?

Our ultimate goal is to find solutions that allow refugees to rebuild their lives in dignity and peace. Resettlement – the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them, grant them the right to permanent residency and, eventually, give them the chance to gain a new citizenship – is one of these solutions.

Photo: © UNHCR/Chris Young

Finding solutions that enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace is a core part of our work. These solutions include voluntary repatriation, integration and resettlement.

Voluntary repatriation may be one solution for refugees who have made the brave decision to return home. It requires the full commitment of the country of origin to help reintegrate its own people, as well as continuing support from the international community through the crucial post-conflict phase to ensure that refugees can resume their lives in a stable environment.

But millions of refugees around the world live year after year with little hope of ever returning home. Some cannot because their countries are engulfed by endless conflict or because they fear persecution if they were to return. In cases where repatriation is not an option, finding a home in the country of asylum and integrating into the local community can offer a solution to their plight and the chance to build a new life. Integration is a complex and gradual process with legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions. In many cases, acquiring the nationality of the country of asylum is the culmination of this process.

Many refugees who cannot go home also live in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in their country of asylum. In such circumstances, UNHCR helps some of the most vulnerable refugees relocate to a third country. That process is called resettlement – the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them, grant them the right to permanent residency and, eventually, offer them the chance to gain a new citizenship.

Resettlement is a tool that allows UNHCR and its partners to provide international protection to refugees whose life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental rights are at risk in the country where they have sought refuge. It is also a tangible expression of international solidarity, allowing States to share responsibility for refugee protection and reduce the impact of forced displacement on countries that are hosting refugees. Find out how UNHCR resettles refugees.

Resettlement is a life-changing experience

Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them. Countries that have agreed to welcome refugees provide them with access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. Governments and non-governmental organizations can facilitate integration by providing refugees with cultural orientation, language and vocational training, as well as programs to promote access to education and employment.

Canada, a world leader in refugee resettlement

Every year, UNHCR refers thousands of refugees to a number of countries with resettlement programs. While resettlement is an important tool to protect refugees and end displacement, it is up to States to decide whether or not they will resettle refugees and how many they plan to receive. There were 20.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world at the end of 2019, but less than one per cent of refugees are resettled each year.

In 2019, Canada was the world leader in the resettlement of refugees, ranking first among the 26 countries that provide refugees with resettlement opportunities. In 2019, Canada provided 30,087 refugees with the opportunity to build a new life for themselves and their families through resettlement, including through its private sponsorship program, which accounted for over 50 per cent of those resettled over the past ten years. Find out more about refugee resettlement to Canada.

UNHCR Canada does not select refugees who will be resettled to Canada and is not able to intervene or influence the process of determining whether someone can be considered a refugee or if a refugee can be resettled to Canada. When resettlement places are offered by countries such as Canada, other UNHCR offices around the world in refugees’ countries of asylum will identify those at risk and submit their applications to these resettlement countries. Resettlement countries make the final decision as to whether or not a refugee will be admitted to their country.

Stay alert and report fraudsters who are offering you resettlement, financial or other kinds of assistance, fake documents or fake claims in exchange for money or other favours. All UNHCR services are free of charge. Do not trust anyone or any organization asking you to pay for the services of UNHCR or its partners.

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