The UNHCR resettlement program

How does resettlement proceed?

With the resettlement program, refugees who have already sought protection in a first asylum country but do not have any perspective of leading a life in dignity there get the possibility of a new future in a third state that has agreed to admit them. For this purpose, they need to be registered with UNHCR and recognized as refugees. In cooperation with NGOs and other institutions involved with refugees, the persons having the most urgent protection needs are identified. Subsequently, the refugees identified in this way are then presented to the resettlement countries. The respective country then receives the entire resettlement dossier for review. After a final decision has been taken, the departure of the refugees can be prepared. For this purpose, medical examinations and orientation courses that provide information about their new countries are conducted in the first asylum country. The departure is organized and carried out by UNHCR together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).


Who is selected?

In order to identify those persons having most urgent protection needs among the refugees, UNHCR cooperates and consults with NGOs and other institutions involved in this area. The refugees identified in this way are then presented to the resettlement countries. During the selection process, UNHCR considers, amongst other criteria, also the knowledge of languages, the cultural and ethnic background as well as family ties.

The following persons are considered as having special protection needs according to UNHCR and are thus eligible for the admission program.

  • Oppressed religious and ethnic minorities
  • Victims of violence and torture
  • Persons with special medical needs
  • Elderly people
  • Single women and single mothers
  • Unaccompanied children and adolescents
  • Persons without any perspectives of returning to their country of origin or of being integrated into the first asylum country


On the basis of these criteria, UNHCR reviews the resettlement needs and selects the persons to be considered for the program. The readiness of the refugees to permanently settle in another country is also a relevant criterion in the selection process. For many refugees it is very difficult to give up the hope of returning into their home countries. However, the final decision on the admission of a person is made by the resettlement countries.


Which are the admission countries?

The resettlement is always a voluntary benefit offered by the admission countries, there is no binding international legal basis. The US, Australia, Canada and Sweden are among the traditional resettlement countries. They admit the most refugees.

The biggest problem in the realization of resettlement is the high demand of admission places in comparison with the limited readiness of the countries to provide such places. Therefore, only very few of the refugees concerned have the chance of being admitted to the program. However, this form of humanitarian admission also offers benefits to the admitting countries. They learn in advance who will enter their country when and why and can thus organize integration measures in advance. In the first asylum country, the resettlement refugees are furthermore already checked in view of security concerns and prepared for their new countries.


Frequently asked questions about resettlement