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Resettlement refers to the admission, meaning the permanent relocation of particularly vulnerable refugees who are neither able to permanently remain in the country in which they have sought refuge, nor can they return to their country of origin. The resettlement programme gives them the opportunity to obtain permanent protection in a third country that is willing to accept them. It offers refugees a safe alternative and prevents people from having to use dangerous escape routes or sea crossings – therefore and above all impeding further deaths. 


Resettlement must be understood as a supplement to refugee protection, and should take effect in cases of emergencies, and not as an alternative to the individual right to asylum.


How does the resettlement procedure work?

Refugees must first register with the UNHCR in the country of first refuge and be recognised as refugees. In cooperation with non-governmental organisations and other actors active in the refugee sector, the people who are most in need of protection are identified. The persons selected for resettlement are then proposed to third countries participating in the resettlement programme. Once the participating actors have come to a decision, appropriate travel arrangements can be made. For this purpose, medical examinations and initial orientation courses for the host country are carried out in the country of first refuge. The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are responsible for organising and carrying out the journey. Resettlement procedures usually take several years. 


Who is selected?                                                                                                                        

According to the UNHCR, the following group of people are considered to be in particular need of protection and are therefore eligible for resettlement.

  • Persecuted religious and ethnic minorities

  • Legal and physical protection needs

  • Survivors of violence and torture

  • People with special medical needs

  • Elderly refugees

  • Women at risk

  • Children and adolescents 

  • Persons with no prospects of return and no integration opportunities in the first host country

Among other things, UNHCR also takes into account existing language skills, cultural and ethnic background and family ties in the host country when making its selection.


UNHCR uses these criteria to assess the need for resettlement and selects the people who are eligible for the programme. The refugees' willingness to settle permanently in a foreign country is also a decisive factor in the selection process. However, the final decision on whether to accept a person lies with the host country.


Which are the host countries?

Resettlement is always a voluntary service provided by the receiving countries. There is no binding international legal basis. The USA, Australia, Canada, and Sweden are among the traditional resettlement countries. They take in the highest number of refugees. The biggest problem with the implementation of resettlement is the high demand for reception places, as determined annually by the UNHCR, and the unwillingness of states to provide these. Only a fraction of the refugees eligible for resettlement have a chance of being accepted into the programme. 

More information here.


Resettlement in Germany

Three-year pilot scheme (2012-2014)

In December 2011, the then Minister of the Interior Friedrich, following a decision by the Conference of Interior Ministers, announced, that Germany would participate in the UN Refugee Agency's resettlement programme from 2012 onwards, initially as part of a three-year pilot scheme. In each of the years 2012 to 2014, 300 particularly vulnerable refugees were admitted to Germany through resettlement:


In 2012, refugees who were stuck in Tunisian and Egyptian camps on the Libyan border and refugees from Turkey entered the country as part of the pilot project.


In 2013, the programme again enabled the admission of refugees from Turkey.


In 2014, refugees of various nationalities (e.g. Iraq, Somalia, China, Afghanistan) were able to enter the country, including Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka who were staying in Indonesia.


Permanent participation in the resettlement programme (since 2015)

Following the successful completion of the pilot scheme at the end of 2014, the German government decided to continue its resettlement activities indefinitely. The number of people to be admitted was initially increased to 500 in 2015.


In 2015, 500 refugees arrived from the initial host countries of Egypt and Sudan. The people seeking protection were of Eritrean, Somali, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Ethiopian, Syrian and Iraqi origin.


In 2016, Germany took in Syrian refugees from Turkey as part of a European Union resettlement pilot programme and the EU-Turkey Statement.


In 2016/17, a total of 1,600 people were admitted through resettlement.


For 2018/19, the German government announced that it would accept 10,200 refugees through resettlement as part of the EU resettlement programme. This number, however, includes admissions already promised within the ongoing Humanitarian Admission Programme (HAP) for Syrian refugees from Turkey and therefore Syrians from Turkey account for the majority of this group. The people who enter the country through the Humanitarian Admission Programme from Turkey not only receive a different, but a significantly worse residence permit than resettlement refugees, meaning that the figure of allegedly 10,200 resettled people is nothing but window dressing.


In 2020, there were 1,395 new arrivals through resettlement. This decline is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.


In 2021, a total of 5,395 refugees were admitted to Germany through the resettlement programme.


In 2022, 4,775 refugees arrived through resettlement.


A quota of 6,500 places was to be filled in 2023, but this was far from realised and is to be made up for at the beginning of 2024. 


For 2024/2025, the authorities have committed to accepting 13,100 people through resettlement.


After arrival in Germany

In the first two weeks after their arrival, refugees are accommodated in the initial reception facilities in Friedland or Doberlug-Kirchhain before being distributed to the federal states according to the official distribution system (Königsteiner Schlüssel). In the initial reception facilities, the refugees receive first support and advice from the social services based there.   


Refugees who come to Germany through the resettlement programme receive a temporary residence permit for three years according to section 23 (4) of the Residence Act and a work permit immediately after entering the country. Their residence status entitles them to take part in an integration course. They are also immediately included in the social security system and are entitled to social benefits under SGB II / XII in addition to health care, nursing insurance and compensation insurance. 


They are largely on an equal footing with recognised refugees, with some differences such as that they do not receive a Blue Passport. 

You can find the admission orders here.


Resettlement in Munich

The resettlement project has been running in Munich since 2014, consisting of safe ways, the Initiativgruppe e.V. (IG) and the Social Department of the City of Munich. The Office for Housing and Migration is responsible for accommodating the refugees, while the social workers from the Initiativgruppe e.V. provide intensive support to the refugees in the first year after their arrival, including helping them to deal with the authorities.


Particularly in the first few weeks after arrival, the refugees are confronted with numerous questions. safe ways provides support, especially in the event of difficulties with the authorities or other agencies, and assists with family reunification. Furthermore, the search for volunteers begins shortly after arrival to welcome the refugees and provide them with advice and support to help them settle into their new environment.

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