29th Sep 2023

Majority of EU states in 2022 did not resettle a single refugee

  • Member states now have until mid-September to submit their pledges for resettlement and humanitarian admission for 2024-2025 (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
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A majority of EU states failed to resettle refugees last year, reneging on their past promises to help evacuate a total of 20,000 people vetted by the UN refugee agency.

Instead, just under 17,000 were hosted — with most ending up in Germany (4,787), Sweden (4,535) and France (3,136) and far smaller numbers going to the Netherlands, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Romania, Belgium, and Italy.

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It comes at a time when the European Commission is attempting to convince member states to boost their pledges for next year.

Earlier this week, EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson hosted a political discussion on resettlement and a separate closed-door meeting on pledges.

Member states now have until mid-September to submit their pledges for resettlement and humanitarian admission for 2024-2025.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is pressing for them to scale up their pledges to reach at least 44,000. "To be clear for the longer term, we're really asking them to scale up far, far more quickly," said Imogen Sudbery, IRC's advocacy director for Europe.

There are also over eight million Ukrainian refugees spread across Europe, including non-EU member states. Sudbery said it shows that the EU has the capacity and ability to welcome people with dignity and respect.

She also said some EU states have been reluctant to expand pledges for next year due to pressure on reception capacity given both Ukrainian and other arrivals.

The lack of housing as well as the fall out from the Covid pandemic and the shift in power in Afghanistan are also factors contributing to the shortfall of pledges, she said.

"The welcome for Ukrainians shouldn't come at the expense of refugees, fleeing other conflict zones, fragile states across the region," she said.

But the political sensitivity over the issue, including pledging figures, is likely to make reaching the IRC's 44,000 target difficult.

Attacks against politicians and human rights defenders helping refugees is not uncommon. Yannick Morez, a mayor of Saint Brevin-les-Pins, a small town in western France, had his house set on fire after proposing to erect a centre for refugees. On Thursday, he resigned.

A debate on migration in the European Parliament earlier this week also saw a far-right French MEP praise the left-leaning government in Denmark for clamping down on asylum seekers.

Resettlement is one of the few safe and regular pathways for vulnerable refugees to reach the EU, says the IRC. But comparative figures on resettlement signal a wider reluctance for EU member states to offer people the legal channels to seek protection on their territories.

The US last year resettled around 25,000 people, far below the goal of 125,000 set by Biden administration, but still more than the EU as a whole.

The span of the Donald Trump administration had also resettled more than the EU, taking in over 53,000 in 2017 alone although then drastically dropping to almost 12,000 in 2020.

A record number of two million refugees are currently in need of resettlement worldwide. The EU's target for this year is just under 16,000.

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