To boost refugee resettlement and complementary pathways, humanitarian actors must engage the private sector and others
GENEVA and BRUSSELS — A new report from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Migration Policy Institute Europe highlights the energy and innovation that have emerged in the refugee resettlement and complementary pathways space in the last several years, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report maps efforts globally to create and scale durable solutions to address unprecedented levels of displacement, with nearly 21 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. It examines emerging opportunities for growing resettlement and the use of complementary pathways such as existing work and student visa programs. It also offers recommendations for how UNHCR, national governments, civil society and other partners can most effectively support the growth of resettlement programs, while also using complementary pathways to place refugees on the road to a better life.
The report, Refugee Resettlement and Complementary Pathways: Opportunities for Growth, makes clear that partnerships with actors beyond the humanitarian sphere must be central to efforts to advance and scale resettlement and complementary pathways, as called for in the Three-Year Strategy (2019-2021) on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways launched following the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018.
"New and active partners among local governments, the private sector, higher education and private philanthropy have critical roles to play in advocating for the development of resettlement and complementary pathways programs, and in supporting their implementation and the development of welcoming societies, particularly at the local level," the report concludes. "Ensuring that resettlement and complementary pathways truly become whole-of-society endeavors will thus be the central challenge going forward."
The report, prepared in partnership with the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub, distils findings from a global mapping exercise of existing resettlement and complementary pathways, specifically third-country employment and education visa opportunities, drawing on interviews with more than 120 stakeholders in government, business, higher education, civil society and UNHCR offices in Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Offering examples from many countries, the report takes a closer look at five case study countries: Finland, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.
Even as the number of resettlement countries has grown in recent years, many new programs remain relatively small in scale. Beyond supporting the growth in resettlement countries and building the capacity of existing programs, the report underscores the need to look beyond the "usual suspects" for partners. Cities and regions, for example, are at the forefront of advancing resettlement in countries such as Finland and Germany. Employers, civic associations and faith-based groups also can be powerful validators to grow public and political support, and community sponsorship has emerged as an important tool to capitalize on this support.
The report also makes clear the need for operational capacity support for resettlement programs, including well-targeted peer support and venues where states can exchange practical information on resettlement operations in specific contexts and identify opportunities for coordination and collaboration. In addition, states could consider ways to build flexibility into programs. They also could invest in better understanding public views of resettlement and how these are shaped and influenced.
Complementary pathways offer a way for refugees who otherwise might not be considered for resettlement to access existing mobility opportunities in a more systematic way. For example, the study identified existing scholarship programs in 22 countries that already provide opportunities for refugees to travel to third countries to pursue higher education, as well as an opportunity to work or continue their studies after graduation. Whilst pilot programs have been launched in each region examined, these have been small in scale, resource intensive to operate and with documentation and fee requirements that can make them difficult for refugees to access.
The report finds that addressing the legal and policy barriers that have hindered the efficient operation and expansion of complementary pathways programs will be critical going forward. It offers recommendations to expand their use, including by building the capacity to map refugees’ skills and experiences in first-asylum countries; continuing to invest in raising awareness of such pathways with businesses and higher education, as well as sharing refugee success stories; and identifying sustainable funding models to help third-country education and employment pathways achieve scale.
The report was commissioned by UNHCR under the framework of the Sustainable Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Initiative (CRISP). This research will generate evidence to guide and enhance the work of the CRISP and relevant stakeholders to expand access to third-country solutions for refugees.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/refugee-resettlement-complementary-pathways.
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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. UNHCR helps to save lives and build better futures for millions forced from home.
MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally.