On 2 September, the European Commission proposed the establishment of a “Joint EU Resettlement Programme” as a way of confronting with the problem of growing number of immigrants from countries outside Europe who risk their lives as they try to enter the European Union outside the normal immigration channels.
Currently, only ten EU member states have national resettlement programmes for refugees which include the transfer from the first country of asylum to the EU country where they find permanent protection and thus given a chance to start a new life whereas some other member states resettle refugees only on an ad hoc basis. However, the problem is that many of these activities are implemented without much consultation and coordination among member states. Also, a number of Mediterranean countries (especially Italy and Malta) that have been recently experiencing a large influx of refugees, have urged other EU member states to help them by taking in a larger numbers of refugees.
65,596 refugees were resettled worldwide last year, but only 4,378, or 6.7% of them were accepted by the EU.
Moreover, according to the United Nations report, 65,596 refugees were resettled worldwide last year, but only 4,378, or 6.7% of them were accepted by the EU. In addition, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2010, there will be approximately 10 million refugees worldwide out of which 203,000 will be in need of resettlement.
Under the joint resettlement programme, the European Commission will launch a Resettlement Expert Group. Apart from all EU member states, other stakeholders such as the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other NGOs which are already active in the field of resettlement, are expected to contribute to the work of the Group. The task of the Expert Group will be to prepare for the identification of common annual EU resettlement priorities which then could be applied to both geographic regions and nationalities, but also to specific categories of refugees that are in the need of resettlement.
Nonetheless, the EU will give each member state the possibility to decide freely whether they actually want to resettle and if so, how many refugees. Those that decide to resettle the refugees in accordance with the common EU annual priorities would receive additional financial assistance in the amount of 4,000 euros per resettled person from the European Refugee Fund.
As regards the practical cooperation on resettlement, a new agency will be established called European Asylum Support Office (EASO). It is expected that the EASO will become operational by 2010 and its task will be to provide a structural framework for joint activities which can be implemented by member states and it will operate in the cooperation with different stakeholders, both governmental as well as non-governmental.
Reportedly, many experts see this programme as a first step forward towards a full development of the European resettlement programme, which should eventually lead to an increase of resettlement places within the European Union.