What is resettlement?
- the selection and transfer of refugees from a country where they have sought protection, to a third country that has agreed to admit them as refugees with a permanent residence status.
- one of three permanent solutions available to refugees, besides voluntary return to the country of origin and local integration in the country of first reception.
- complementary to the national procedure to obtain international protection. By its efforts in the field of resettlement, Belgium develops an integrated policy of international protection.
Resettlement is an instrument to show solidarity with countries that receive large numbers of refugees, and serves as a lever to develop other solutions in those countries, such as enhancing self-reliance and creating circumstances that enable a safe return.
Since 2013, Belgium has a structural resettlement program with an annual quota. Between 2013 and 2018, Belgium resettled 2,776 refugees through the United Nations refugee organization (UNHCR), mainly Syrians from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and Congolese from the Great Lakes area.
In 2019, 239 refugees were resettled in Belgium. In 2020, there were 176.
At first, UNHCR makes a selection from the large group of refugees in the world on the basis of vulnerability criteria and the need for resettlement. Each year, UNHCR publishes a report that includes a chapter on resettlement needs and priorities throughout the world, the Projected Global Resettlement Needs document. Belgium only accepts resettlement submissions of UNHCR and takes into account these priorities as far as possible.
The conditions to be eligible for resettlement are the following:
- UNHCR has granted refugee status
- All durable solutions have been assessed, and resettlement, not voluntary return or local integration, is identified as the most appropriate solution
- To fall under one of the following seven UNHCR submission categories:
- legal and/or physical protection needs
- survivors of violence and/or torture
- medical needs
- women and girls at risk
- reunification with an already resettled family member
- children and adolescents at risk
- refugees without a prospect of local integration or voluntary retur
You will find more information in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.
The CGRS organizes a selection mission to the country of first reception and interviews the persons submitted for resettlement. Based on the interview with the CGRS and on the other elements of the case, the CGRS draws up a selection advice and submits it to the Minister competent for Asylum and Migration. Upon agreement, he/she instructs to issue the necessary travel documents to the selected refugees.
During the selection, Fedasil performs a medical screening of every refugee so that any medical needs can be taken into account during the reception, but this does not influence the decision.
3. Pre-departure Orientation : BELCO, the Belgian cultural orientation
Before they leave, the refugees meet staff members of Fedasil (Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers in Belgium), who inform them about life in Belgium, manage their expectations, prepare them for their departure to Belgium and collect relevant information for the reception partners. To be able do so, Fedasil receives logistical support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
With the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian embassies, Fedasil organizes the transfer to Belgium. IOM provides practical support: flight tickets, pre-departure medical checks, travel support upon departure, transit and arrival and facilitating immigration and customs formalities.
At first, the refugees are assigned a reception location in one of the four federal Fedasil reception centres specialized in the reception of resettled refugees: Saint-Trond, Pondrôme, Florennes or Kapellen. This first stay lasts about six weeks. Shortly after their arrival, the refugees file an application for international protection. Because their application was already conclusively assessed before their departure and a positive advice was given regarding the need for international protection, the CGRS will grant refugee status without any further assessment.
After their stay in a collective reception centre, resettled refugees go to a local reception initiative (LRI) in a municipality, where they can stay for six months. According to the new reception model, these local reception initiatives are locations available to applicants for international protection and recognized refugees (resettled refugees in this case). They are managed by Public Centres for Social Welfare.
After six months, the refugees leave the LRI and move to a private house.
You will find more information about this phase on the Fedasil website
For 2020, UNHCR estimates the number of persons in need of resettlement throughout the world at 1.44 million, among whom 40 % are Syrian refugees, 14 % are refugees from South Sudan and 11 % are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
UNHCR sees three refugee situations that need to be given priority by the EU countries:
- The Central Mediterranean situation : UNHCR estimates the number of resettlement locations needed for the 15 countries on the Central Mediterranean route in 2020 at 324,754. These countries are Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. UNHCR also explicitly asks to offer places to the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM), by means of which refugees who are stuck in Libya can be evacuated to Niger or Rwanda, from where they can be resettled to a third country.
- Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey : UNHCR estimates the number of resettlement locations needed for these countries, especially for Syrians, at 646,000.
- Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) countries : The CRRF is a program that calls for more support for refugees and more solidarity with the following countries receiving refugees: Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Afghanistan. In the course of 2017 and 2018, this program was applied in different refugee situations throughout the world. The experience gained during this program has contributed to the development of the Global Refugee Compact (GRC), which was adopted by all UN members in December 2018.
The Belgian Minister competent for asylum and migration decides how many refugees will be resettled each year as part of the Belgian program. He/she will do so after having obtained advice from the CGRS and Fedasil.
Since 2013, when the common European resettlement program was launched, Belgium has a structural resettlement program. This means that it provides an annual quota of resettlement locations. However, in the past, several operations were executed that can be considered as resettlements. In 1956-1957, 6,000 Hungarians who fled after the suppression of the Hungarian uprising were offered a new home in Belgium, and in 1973, 1,100 Chileans could escape Pinochet’s terror regime and begin a new life in Belgium. In 1975, 2,500 boat people from Vietnam and Cambodia were offered the chance to settle in Belgium. In 1992, 200 Bosnians were admitted, and at a later stage children, injured persons and relatives from Bosnia. In 1999, during the war in Kosovo, 1,200 Kosovars were transferred to Belgium.
Since 2007, through their respective missions, the CGRS and Fedasil have gained experience in the field of resettlement. In December 2007, staff members of the CGRS and Fedasil participated as observers in the Dutch selection for a resettlement mission to Thailand. In September 2008, the CGRS participated as an observer in a joint mission to Tanzania by the United Kingdom and Ireland for the selection of refugees for resettlement.
In 2009, the then Minister for Asylum and Migration, Annemie Turtelboom, instigated the resettlement projects. In February 2009, Annemie Turtelboom and the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, Dirk Van den Bulck, visited a Dutch resettlement mission in Kenya. A first pilot project, as part of which 47 Iraqi refugees were resettled in Belgium, was set up the same year. In 2011, Belgium resettled 25 persons of Congolese and Eritrean descent, who had fled from Libya, where a civil war had broken out, to Tunisia.
Structural resettlement program from 2013 onwards
After two earlier successful pilot projects, the then Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Maggie De Block, decided in 2012 to launch a structural resettlement program, which effectively started in 2013.
Resettlement arrivals 2014-2020
Resettlement in the world
UNHCR estimates the number of persons throughout the world who need resettlement in 2020, at 1.44 million, among whom 40 % are Syrian refugees, 14 % are refugees from South Sudan and 11 % are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Resettlement and the EU
In 2018, the EU+ countries (the EU + Norway and Switzerland) resettled a total of 24,815 refugees. Resettlement is part of the long-term policy of the EU to improve migration management, as presented in the European Agenda on Migration of May 2015. On 13 July 2016, the Commission presented an EU resettlement framework that should lead in the long term to a common European resettlement policy.
There were already various earlier initiatives to develop a common EU resettlement policy. On 29 March 2012, the European Parliament approved a Joint Resettlement Program listing common EU priorities for resettlement. These priorities largely correspond to those of UNHCR (see TAB 2).
From 2013 onwards, the EU has also lent financial support to Member States resettling refugees who fall under these common priorities. The European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (2014 - 2020) provides a financial support of 10,000 euro per refugee who falls under the EU resettlement priorities, which are determined every two years in what is commonly known as the ‘EU Resettlement Program’.
There are also other European resettlement initiatives, such as the 1:1 Program with Turkey, which determines that for every Syrian who is sent back from the Greek islands to Turkey, a Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to an EU country, taking into account the UNHCR vulnerability criteria.
Can I, or a relative or an acquaintance, file an application for resettlement in Belgium?
No, Belgium only accepts resettlement submissions of the UN refugee organization (UNHCR). On the basis of criteria presented by Belgium, UNHCR identifies the most vulnerable refugees. For this reason, it is impossible to file a resettlement application directly with a Belgian authority.
What are the rights of a resettled refugee in Belgium?
After his/her arrival, the resettled refugee is granted refugee status. As a result, the resettled refugee has the same rights as a refugee who travelled to Belgium on his own (cfr. brochure “YOU HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS A REFUGEE IN BELGIUM”).
Can relatives of a recognized refugee also travel to Belgium and settle there?
The same rules for family reunification apply to resettled refugees and to refugees who have been recognized in Belgium. (cfr. brochure “YOU HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS A REFUGEE IN BELGIUM”). Relatives of recognized refugees who are not entitled to family reunification can be submitted for resettlement by UNHCR if they meet the criteria, but Belgium does not intervene in this in any way.
Can I file an application with UNHCR for a relative who cannot come to Belgium through family reunification?
If your relatives have been registered as a refugee in another country by UNHCR, they should preferably turn to the local UNHCR office, where they can report that they have relatives in Belgium.
Does Belgium receive money to accept refugees for resettlement?
The UN does not offer any financial support to countries that accept refugees for resettlement. On the contrary, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, receives financial support from member states, among which Belgium. Accepting refugees for resettlement is a voluntary commitment made by the Belgian government.
How long does it take between the Belgian decision to accept resettlement and the departure to Belgium?
After the decision to accept resettlement has been taken, it takes a few months before the refugee can travel to Belgium. However, this period may vary strongly. This depends partly on the situation in the country of first reception or the number of places available in the reception system in Belgium.
Can Belgium refuse a resettlement submission by UNHCR?
Yes, Belgium takes the decision based on its own analysis and independently from UNHCR.
What is the difference between resettlement and relocation?
Relocation is the transfer of asylum seekers from one member state to another. This process takes place within the European Union (EU), generally from countries under strong pressure which are situated at the EU’s external borders (e.g. Malta). For this group of asylum seekers, it still has to be decided after the transfer whether international protection will be granted. Whereas in the case of resettlement, the need for international protection has already been ascertained before departure and refugees have been identified by UNHCR. By definition, resettlement takes place from a third country (outside of the EU).
For questions regarding the selection phases in the resettlement process and the procedure of international protection, please contact the CGRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions regarding the transfer to Belgium, the reception and integration of resettled refugees, please contact Fedasil at email@example.com.