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Resettlement & Complementary Pathways

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Authors: Joanne Van-Selm and Naji Makarem (on behalf of our team)

UrbanEmerge was commissioned by the Durable Solutions Platform (DSP) to conduct research on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways for Syrian refugees.

The DSP asked us to look at the extent to which resettlement and complementary pathways have been accessible for Syrian refugees as well as to identify their potential for future state policy and NGO programming and advocacy. Here’s what we learnt:

By way of Background: Resettlement is one of three traditional, durable solutions for refugees (the others are return and local integration). If selected for a resettlement programme, a refugee’s movement to a third country destination is coordinated, and their protection is guaranteed. Resettlement programmes are an approach to managing refugee protection in developed states, a tool that can be used alongside an asylum system, which generally responds to spontaneous arrivals of people seeking refugee protection.

There were over 5.6 million Syrian refugees registered in the Middle East and North Africa by September 2018. 4.5 million of them were in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. During 2017, a total of 75,000 refugees were resettled worldwide, of whom about 30,000 were Syrians. Global resettlement quotas are falling, most notably the contribution of the US, but the need for resettlement is increasing: according to UNHCR 1.2 million refugees require resettlement in 2018, and some 10 per cent of Syrian refugees are in need of a third country solution. But only 13,400 Syrians had been resettled in the first nine months of 2018.

There is clearly a huge gap between the number of Syrian refugees in need of resettlement and the number of Syrians who are actually being resettled to a country where they can find a durable solution to their displacement situation and protection needs. So many Syrians need resettlement because the neighbouring states and others in the region are a) finding the number of arrivals over the last five years to be beyond their capacity, b) those states are generally not signatories to, or participants in, the global refugee protection instruments and regime, c) opportunities for local integration are extremely scarce, and it is even actively discouraged in many of the states of the region and d) the conflict in Syria continues, and indeed intensifies, with more than 6 million internally displaced persons, and no sign of the peace and stability needed for safe return and reconstruction.

Several European states, as well as UN migration and refugee organizations and NGOs concerned with the plight of Syrian refugees have been exploring ‘Complementary Pathways’ as a viable supplement to the traditional Resettlement route.

Complementary Pathways are, by definition, complementary to resettlement — that is, they are not intended by any of the actors involved to dilute or replace resettlement, which is by all accounts the ‘gold standard’ of third country refugee protection. Such pathways are humanitarian in nature, and include Humanitarian Admission Programmes (HAPs), which might offer shorter-term protection visas, and alternative eligibility requirements from those for resettlement; Community and Private Sponsorship Programmes, under which some financial and other support functions are taken on by sponsors rather than governments, and; extended family reunification, beyond the entitlement to bring in nuclear family members (spouse and minor children). Some Complementary Pathways, while still humanitarian in terms of the individuals and situations they address, might use migration rather than protection categories to admit refugees, e.g. employment programmes, or student visas and scholarships.

Complementary Pathways can offer an additional route alongside resettlement, increasing the number of vulnerable refugees who can move, and broadening the definitional scope of refugees who can access a third country protection approach or solution. However, they must be carefully and thoughtfully designed to overcome the barriers to access, and mitigate some of the risks involved. For example, some Complementary Pathways require a family connection (both extended family reunification and some HAPs), which puts limitations on eligibility, but might also be open to fraud. Others require refugees to self-identify, rather than being put forward by UNHCR for selection, and produce documentation on qualifications or work experience that can be challenging to access in a displacement situation.

Our research in Jordan added to knowledge on and information about Complementary Pathways, and their implementation, in particular by directly talking with focus groups to discover refugees’ awareness about resettlement and complementary pathways. Refugees voiced hope, particularly about educational opportunities and being able to integrate. Some also indicated their fears, in particular that their family might be separated, especially if there were adult children, or that it would not be as easy to integrate in a far away country as some people suggest. Two NGOs, Jusoor and Talent Beyond Boundaries, working closely with and alongside UNHCR, are putting a particular focus on opportunities for refugees as students and workers.

We put forward practical recommendations and policy suggestions for states, international NGOs and local NGOs, highlighting potential synergies from collaboration towards their shared goal of developing Complementary Pathways, focusing on overcoming barriers to refugee protection and mitigating risks for all involved.

The genesis of an emergent community of practice was evident at an event co-hosted by the DSP and the Columbia Global Centres in Amman, Jordan, in March 2018.

Note: This Research was conducted by UrbanEmerge team members Loraine Charles (labour expert), Reem Maghribi (Focus Group Discussions), Naji Makarem (Team Leader), Stephen Commins (Senior Advisor) and Andreas Beavor (Project Manager); and external consutant Dr. Joanne Van Selm.


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