EU Resettlement Network

Selection phase

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UNHCR identifies refugees in need of resettlement as part of its mandate to offer protection and to find durable solutions for refugees, while other NGOs and international organizations also play a key role throughout the identification and selection phases. However, it is States that have the sole discretion in offering permanent places of residence in their countries through resettlement.

Resettlement States that have established regular refugee resettlement programmes agree to consider a certain number of submissions of refugees by UNHCR each year. Other countries may not have a yearly programme, but may resettle refugees on an ad hoc basis and/or maintain special resettlement programmes benefiting refugees with specific needs.   

The UNHCR assessment of global resettlement needs and priorities through the Projected Global Resettlement Needs annual report assists States in establishing priorities and targets in their respectiveresettlement programmes. At the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) held in Geneva each July, all resettlement partners - governments, NGOs and international organisations - discuss the identified resettlement needs and begin the planning process for resettlement for the following  year. UNHCR also engages in bilateral discussions with States to identify specific needs that could be met by a State. 

Resettlement States determine the size and composition of their resettlement programmes, and assess the Resettlement Registration Forms (RRF’s) submitted to them by UNHCR to decide who is granted resettlement. While UNHCR urges all States to be guided by its resettlement eligibility considerations as well as the global needs and priorities identified, resettlement States will ultimately make admission decisions according to their respective policies, criteria, laws and migration regulations. In this process, UNHCR requests resettlement States to avoid the application of restrictive, potentially discriminatory, integration criteria such as family size, age, health status and religion, which undermines the protection foundation of resettlement.

UNHCR’s Resettlement Handbook contains individual country chapters, which provide detailed information about the resettlement programmes of each of the resettlement States, including descriptions of resettlement laws and policies, procedures for refugee selection and processing, as well as the reception arrangements and settlement services provided by the State.

The majority of refugee resettlement programmes worldwide rely on UNHCR to recommend specific refugees according to needs and priorities identified by UNHCR and its partners, and to present these cases to States for resettlement consideration. A number of resettlement States also have mechanisms in place to select individuals for resettlement without the direct involvement of UNHCR. Such mechanisms often base admission on family links or other prior links with the resettlement country. On occasion, States may also evacuate those in need of international protection directly from their countries of origin which, it should be noted, is a separate procedure to resettlement.

Resettlement selection is often performed through face-to-face interviews by government officials traveling to the country of asylum, which is called a selection mission. A growing number of resettlement countries also select refugees for resettlement solely on the basis of the RRF provided by UNHCR, which is known as dossier selection. Under circumstances where interviews in person are not possible due to, for example, safety concerns or other obstacles, resettlement States can choose to conduct resettlement interviews through video conferencing.

Some resettlement countries, most notably the United States of America, utilize NGOs and IOM in the processing of cases before their immigration officials determine the eligibility of cases for resettlement. This illustrates the important role that both NGOs and IOM play in facilitating the work of UNHCR field offices, where close cooperation on specific cases and groups is arranged on an on-going basis.

Pictures: © UNHCR/BakOS DESIGN/July 2014; © UNHCR/L. Dobbs/February 2012