On Friday, 21 February 2014, at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, UNHCR called upon States to make multi-annual commitments towards a goal of providing resettlement and other forms of admission for an additional 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016.
1. Why is UNHCR calling for additional pledges for 2015-2016?
As the crisis in Syria continues and the number of displaced people grows, UNHCR anticipates that there will be growing numbers of vulnerable Syrian refugees who will be in need of resettlement or relocation. There are many refugees with acute vulnerabilities who require an urgent solution, while there may be others who will be unable to return in safety and dignity in the foreseeable future. Our collective responsibility will extend into the coming years, and we need to be pro-active in pursuing multi-annual planning for solutions now.
Planning for solutions for the future helps to maintain the momentum generated by the commitments made at the Executive Committee High Level Segment on Syria in September 2013. It encourages us to work collectively to find ways in which we can continue to expand solutions available for Syrian refugees over the next few years. This will be critical in providing the most vulnerable Syrian refugees with possibilities for accessing safety and protection without having to resort to riskier alternatives such as treacherous journeys by sea.
2. Will the goal of admitting 30,000 Syrian refugees through resettlement or other forms of admission be met by the end of 2014?
To date, 20 countries have offered more than 19,900 places towards the goal of 30,000 plus an open-ended number to the United States of America. UNHCR remains confident that the goal of 30,000 persons will be met by the end of 2014 through a significant number of submissions to the United States of America.
3. Where are referrals taking place?
Referrals of Syrian refugees for resettlement or humanitarian admission are primarily made from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Referrals are made to those countries that have made pledges to date.
UNHCR began submitting refugee cases to resettlement and humanitarian admission countries in earnest in the final quarter of 2013. Typically, several months are required for resettlement countries to decide upon cases submitted by UNHCR and to then facilitate the departure of refugees. We are seeing increasing numbers of departures now.
4. Will UNHCR have the capacity to meet this new goal of 100,000 for resettlement and other forms of admission?
UNHCR is continuing to expand its staffing capacity to prepare cases and fill the places offered, both for 2014 and also in anticipation of the increased resettlement and humanitarian admission goals for 2015 and 2016.
Moreover, with the agreement of participating States, UNHCR is implementing more streamlined and expedited processing procedures that will ensure that we can meet those pledges currently committed by States for resettlement and humanitarian admission, and that will also facilitate meeting any new commitments pledged by States for 2015-2016.
In addition to UNHCR referrals, States are also encouraged to help meet the goal of 100,000 persons by offering opportunities for the admission of Syrians through other migration and protection schemes.
5. What other forms of admission could States include as part of their pledges?
UNHCR is urging States to explore innovative ways to increase opportunities for Syrian refugees through other forms of admission that can provide protection. These could include making pledges to:
Allocate quotas for the individual sponsorship of Syrian refugees.
Facilitate family reunification through allowing elderly parents and adult married children to reunite with recognized refugees and subsidiary protection holders in the country of admission. In addition, remove, where applicable, the income and/or employment requirements for family reunification of subsidiary protection holders.
Facilitate medical evacuations for Syrian refugees with serious medical conditions who are in need of urgent and life-saving treatment.
Create scholarships for Syrian students to study abroad, allowing them to be joined by their family members.
Enhance opportunities for Syrian scholars-at-risk to pursue their research and scholarship in universities abroad.
Invest in labour mobility and investor schemes that will facilitate the employment and continued professional development of Syrian refugees.
Increase the visa processing capacity and shorten the visa processing times at embassies.
6. What types of cases/profiles will be prioritized for resettlement?
UNHCR is working closely with resettlement and humanitarian admission countries to prioritize the most vulnerable. These include: women and girls at risk, survivors of violence and/or torture, refugees with medical needs or disabilities, refugees at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, vulnerable older adults, refugees in need of family reunification, and refugees who face serious threats to their safety.
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Photo: Syrian women wait to be registered by UNHCR in Arsal, Lebanon after fleeing from Syria. © UNHCR/M.Hofer