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Responsibility sharing for relocation and resettlement of those fleeing Libya

UNHCR / A. Duclos

On 12 May, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom convened a ministerial meeting for Member States and other stakeholders on both resettlement from North Africa and relocation from Malta, in which UNHCR played a leading role.

The Libyan crisis presents a challenge for the European Union, specifically for Italy and Malta, which have received significant numbers of forcibly displaced people from Libya. In Malta, the numbers arriving are expected to stretch the country’s capacities to offer long term protection to people of concern and UNHCR therefore recognizes the need to show solidarity to Malta and supports the relocation of people forcibly displaced from Libya and who require international protection.

The European Union has repeatedly expressed its commitment to the principle of responsibility-sharing and on 11-12 April the JHA Council undertook to support relocation of people from North Africa in Malta. It was agreed that one of the key objectives of intra-EU relocation is to offer durable solutions to refugees and others in need of protection and support Malta in the form of relocation places which will enable it to deal more effectively with those in need. Further, to alleviate potential pressure from front line receiving states, states could adopt flexible approaches to Dublin II including refraining from returns of asylum seekers to those states and a flexible approach to family reunification cases. Following the 12 May ministerial meeting, 246 places were offered for relocation from Malta.

When dealing with relocation, UNHCR proposes that further asylum determination processes should not be undertaken to avoid potential divergences in approach and receiving countries should be flexible and consider all cases that they could reasonably be called upon to accommodate. Crucially, relocation by EU member states should not be at the expense of existing resettlement quotas, while preparations should be made for the reception and integration of relocated people in receiving countries, including language training and counselling.

The agency’s past experiences with relocation processes and well developed working relationships with Malta mean that we can provide an important foundation that can enhance the effectiveness of the initiative. We are thus ready to facilitate and provide support to intra-EU relocation and are open to discussion with individual member states about the practical workings of such a scheme and the services it can provide to support this effort.

On resettlement, UNHCR highlights the urgency of resettlement to offer protection to individual refugees stuck at the borders, and who might otherwise consider the life threatening journey across the Mediterranean if quick resettlement cannot provided. Also of great importance is the fact that resettlement will increase and safeguard the protection space offered by Egypt and Tunisia. The borders of these countries need to remain open and the urgent refugee situation calls for extra resettlement places beyond the annual resettlement quota. 

In response to the Libya situation, Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the US have offered 904 places for resettlement, including 299 places from Norway Belgium and Ireland in addition to their regular quota. This support is appreciated, but most places offered are largely within existing yearly resettlement quotas and do not keep pace with the increasing numbers of persons in need of resettlement.

Thus, UNHCR is expanding its efforts to constitute a Global Resettlement Solidarity Initiative, through which all resettlement States are called upon to consider contributing a first target number of 8,000 places, rising to possibly 20,000 if needs should demand. The primary aims of the Global Resettlement Initiative are to serve as a crucial life saving function, to alleviate the burden on Egypt and Tunisia, and to provide durable solutions for refugees in protracted situations in Egypt.