Record number of refugees need resettlement, but countries don’t want them

An Afghan girl get out her makeshift tent at the old international airport, which is used as a shelter for over 3,500 refugees and migrants, in southern Athens. File May 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A record 1.19 million refugees are expected to need resettlement in 2017, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. The 72 percent increase since 2014 comes at a time when wealthy countries are increasingly taking steps to keep refugees and migrants out. The agency hopes to resettle 170,000 refugees next year, less than 15 percent of the overall need.

“Resettlement is now more important than ever as a solution, and we must grasp this opportunity to increase the number of refugees benefiting from it, as well as other avenues for admission,” said High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, in a statement.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recognized that resettling more than 1 million people in one year is not possible. Current national quotas are expected to allow 143,000 refugee resettlements in 2016. Pledges and some hopeful thinking are behind the target of 170,000 for 2017.

Refugees in need of resettlement are either people who cannot return to their home country or are unable to stay in current host countries. Roughly 40 percent of people referred for resettlement in 2015 came from Syria. The U.S. alone accepted more than 82,000 resettlement submissions from UNHCR in 2015, nearly four times more than Canada, which took in the second most number of refugees.

Most countries are not doing their fair share when it comes to resettling Syrian refugees, according to Oxfam. The charity published an analysis comparing the number of refugees accepted by countries relative to their economies. With that formula the U.S. should take in 163,392 Syrian refugees, according to the analysis, yet it only accepted 11,812 refugees since 2013. Other countries also perform poorly, meaning that the world is meeting one-third of the target resettlement of 460,000 Syrians.

In the face of great need, the very countries that are most able to take in refugees are taking rhetorical and policy stances to keep people out. A debate is raging in western Montana over plans to resettle Syrian refugees. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump doubled down on his call for banning the entry of Muslims into the U.S. following the mass shooting in Orlando this week.

“The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” said Trump, in a speech in New Hampshire. “That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about. We have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does that (sic) permit us to protect our citizens properly.”

In Greece, police detained 34 volunteers working to support migrants at a makeshift camp along the border with Macedonia. Officials have shuttered the camp in the wake of a deal between the European Union and Turkey that seeks to stop the arrival of people by sea into Europe. The French refugee camp in Calais similarly experienced crackdowns in an effort to finally shut it down.

Other European countries have taken steps to limit the movement of migrants and resettle few refugees. Germany has been something of an anomaly amid all the resistance. More than 1 million asylum seekers are settled in the country. It is the kind of extraordinary effort that is needed from the rest of the world to make a bigger dent in the 1.19 million figure.

“We are seeing resettlement taken to a new level and that enhanced resettlement can be an effective means of sharing the responsibility for refugee protection,” said Grandi. “But much more needs to be done to keep pace with the growing numbers of acutely vulnerable.”

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.

  • Melinda Taylor

    Those people are not even remotely settled in Germany. Read the local German papers the crime is astounding. These illegal migrants need to go HOME and FIGHT for their countries just like our ancestors did!!