Volunteering & Refugee Resettlement

Across Europe, approximately 100 million people voluntarily contribute their time, skills and energy for the benefit of their local community and environment.  As part of this effort, volunteers play an invaluable role in helping resettled refugees to build their new lives in the country of resettlement, providing both friendship and practical advice and assisting refugees to integrate into their new environment.  Without their support, resettled refugees would experience manymore challenges in finding their way around new societies that are often very different from their own.

Whilst some European Member States have longstanding traditions of volunteering, others have no tradition of voluntary work or of volunteer involvement in refugee resettlement and integration.  Across Europe, civil society organisations and governmental authorities have produced a number of resources for volunteering in refugee resettlement - including films, reports, descriptions of volunteer roles and tasks - and materials to assist in attracting, recruiting, training and supporting volunteers. Within the European Resettlement Network, we consider that volunteering can play a role in refugee resettlement and integration in all European countries.  However, we have realised that many of these resources have been produced in the national languages of the respective organisations, meaning that they are often not accessible for counterpart organisations working in refugee resettlement and integration in other Member States. 

To enable volunteering expertise and experience to be further shared across the EU Resettlement Network and amongst resettlement actors all over Europe, these pages contain English language translations of volunteering resources produced by organisations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, in addition to resources produced in English by organisations in the UK.  This work has been undertaken by IOM, ICMC and UNHCR in the framework of the current 'Linking-In EU Resettlement Project'.


Refugees who cares? I do! UNHCR campaign © UNHCR M. Kho

Volunteering in Europe

Volunteering provides a platform via which civil society organisations and local communities can benefit from the expertise and skills of local populations.  Volunteering can also help individuals to acquire new skills and experience that they can use to enhance their employability and - for those who are unable to work or who are isolated from the community or people around them - can be an excellent way to build social relationships and networks.

In recognition of the important and varied contribution of volunteering across Member States, the European Union designated 2011 the 'European Year of Volunteering'.  National Coordinating Bodies in each Member State coordinated programmes and activities aimed at creating an enabling environment for volunteering in the EU, empower volunteer organisations, improve the quality of volunteering reward and recognise volunteering activities and raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering.

Refugee Resettlement & Volunteering

In many European countries, volunteers offer resettled refugees friendship, advice, and opportunities to learn about the culture of their new countries and practice the language.  Volunteers working with resettled refugees use their experiences to raise awareness about refugee resettlement within their own communities, and to help build political and community-based support for current and future resettlement programmes.

Previously resettled refugees often act as volunteers within local resettlement programmes.  Their experiences of being resettled to the same country and local area, language skills and - often - their understanding of the culture and priorities of the new arrivals, make them invaluable additions to local reception and integration systems and processes for resettled refugees.   Volunteering also provides resettled refugees with opportunities to improve their language skills, meet those living in the wider local community, learn more about the social and working cultures, develop new skills and acquire verifiable work experience in their resettlement country.

As above, for other Member States that also receive resettled refugees a culture of volunteering is not present or is not particularly strong within the receiving society, and resettlement programmes in these contexts have subsequently not benefitted from the input of volunteers to the extent they might have.