Resettlement of Refugees from Syria: Increased commitments needed from international community in Geneva

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On 9 December 2014 UNHCR will convene a ministerial level pledging conference in Geneva on resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission for refugees from Syria.  With little sign of the conflict in Syria abating and over 3.2 million refugees registered in neighbouring countries, more than 30 humanitarian, human rights and refugee organisations are calling for the states attending the conference to commit to offering a safe haven to at least 5 per cent of the projected refugee population by the end of 2015. This would equate to 180,000 refugees being relocated from neighbouring countries by that date. This commitment would be a lifeline to those refugees resettled. If coupled with an adequate aid response and increased economic support to Syria’s neighbours, it would also encourage those countries to keep their borders open to ensure those in Syria can flee the conflict, and could contribute to their stability.
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  JOINT AGENCY BRIEFING PAPER 8 DECEMBER 2014 In Jaleel refugee camp (pictured), the oldest Palestinian camp in Lebanon, the population has more than doubled with the arrival of refugees from Syria. Photo: Luca Sola RESETTLEMENT OF REFUGEES FROM SYRIA Increased commitments needed from international community in Geneva On 9 December 2014 UNHCR will convene a ministerial level pledging conference in Geneva on resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission for refugees from Syria. With little sign of the conflict in Syria abating and over 3.2 million refugees registered in neighbouring countries, more than 30 humanitarian, human rights and refugee organisations are calling for the states attending the conference to commit to offer a safe haven to at least 5 per cent of the projected refugee population by the end of 2015. This would equate to 180,000 refugees being relocated from neighbouring countries by that date. This commitment would be a lifeline to those refugees resettled. If coupled with an adequate aid response and increased economic support to Syria’s nei ghbours, it would also encourage those countries to keep their borders open to ensure those in Syria can flee the conflict, and could contribute to their stability.  2 Resettlement of refugees from Syria SIGNATORIES  ABAAD (Lebanon)  ACTED  ACTIONAID  ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM  AMEL (Lebanon)  AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL  ASSOCIATION EUROPÉENNE POUR LA DÉFENSE DES DROITS DE L'HOMME BRITISH REFUGEE COUNCIL CARE INTERNATIONAL CARITAS CENTRE FOR REFUGEE SOLIDARITY CHILDRENPLUS CIVIL SOCIETY IN PENITENTIARY SYSTEMS (Turkey)   DANISH REFUGEE COUNCIL EURO MEDITERRANEAN HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON REFUGEES AND EXILES FRONTIERS RUWAD ASSOCIATION ( Lebanon )   HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION (Turkey) THE INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE ISLAMIC RELIEF JREDS (Jordan) LEBANESE CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS LIGUE DES DROITS DE L'HOMME MEDECINS DU MONDE MEDAIR MUSLIM AID NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL OXFAM PREMIER URGENCE-    AIDE MEDICALE INTERNATIONALE QATAR RED CRESENT SAVE THE CHILDREN SAWA FOR DEVELOPMENT AND AID (Lebanon) SUPPORT FOR LIFE (Turkey) SYRIA INGO REGIONAL FORUM THE SYRIA CAMPAIGN UN PONTE PER  Resettlement of refugees from Syria 3 1.Introduction On 9 December 2014 UNHCR will convene a ministerial level pledging conference in Geneva on resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission for refugees from Syria. There are over 3.2 million refugees registered in neighbouring countries and, with little sign of the conflict in Syria abating, this number is projected to rise to 3.59 million by the end of the year  1 . More than 30 humanitarian, human rights and refugee organisations who are responding to this almost unprecedented crisis are calling for the states attending the conference to commit to offer a safe haven to at least 5 per cent of the projected refugee population by the end of 2015. This would equate to around 180,000 vulnerable refugees being relocated to third countries by that date. Countries outside the region have to date pledged to resettle less than two per cent of the Syrian refugee population  –  and the timeframe for even these limited commitments to be honoured is unclear  2 . To put that in perspective, over three times as many refugees have fled to Turkey alone since the start of September than the rest of the world have pledged to resettle since the start of the conflict in Syria. With refugees increasingly desperate and vulnerable, enhanced resettlement and other humanitarian admission options are needed to ensure that refugees with heightened vulnerabilities, protection risks or special needs are able to get the protection and care that they need to survive. Increased resettlement of sufficient scale could also contribute to easing the tremendous strain on host communities, including on public services and infrastructure as well as private shelter. States that have not historically participated in refugee resettlement, including from the Gulf and Latin America 3 , should join in the effort and develop resettlement programmes and other forms of humanitarian admissions for refugees. 2.A pressing need: Huge numbers of refugees,increased desperation Syria has generated one of the biggest refugee crises since the Second World War  4 , and the violence inside the country continues to escalate. An increasing number of those who have fled are desperate and vulnerable. The extraordinary generosity shown by neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan is at breaking point. Refugees and poor host communities are paying the price. Also deeply affected are those civilians 1  UNHCR, Syria Regional Response Plan mid-year review http://www.unhcr.org/syriarrp6/midyear/docs/syria-rrp6-midyear-full-report.pdf 2  See IRC and NRC, No Escape: Civilians in Syria Struggle to Find Safety Across Borders. Pledges can often take time to lead to relocation. Once a resettlement submission is made to a specific country, the refugee applicant must go through a complex interview and screening process by the receiving countries. 3  Brazil has launched a humanitarian visa programme for refugees from Syria and has issued 4,200 visas as of November 2014. See UNHCR, Finding Solutions for Syrian Refugees http://www.unhcr.org/52b2febafc5.html 4  More than 5 million people fled Afghanistan in the 1980s and there have been continued flows of refugees over the last two decades, as well as returns of millions of refugees.  4 Resettlement of refugees from Syria trying but often unable to flee the conflict in Syria as neighbouring countries restrict or close their borders. UNHCR has publicly expressed concerns for people trying to flee relating to the restriction of Jordan ‟s border  5 . In October 2014, only 18,453 refugees from Syria were registered with UNHCR in countries bordering Syria, an 88 per cent drop from the monthly 2013 average, which gives an indication of the extent to which people are increasingly trapped inside Syria. 6   Box 1: Resettlement, humanitarian admission and asylum : what’s the difference? Resettlement is an option whereby a third country (i.e. not the one the refugee has fled from, or the country of first asylum or habitual residence) offers refugee status to that individual in its territory. For example, this could mean a refugee from Syria living in a camp in Jordan being offered status, and related reception and integration support, in the United States of America 7 . Humanitarian admission programmes are much like resettlement, but normally involve expedited processing, often without the involvement of UNHCR, and may provide either permanent or temporary stay depending on the legislation or policy of the state offering this option. For example, Germany offered temporary status to hundreds of thousands of Bosnians in the 1990s, who then returned to Bosnia when the war there had finished and it was safe for individuals to do so. Humanitarian admissions criteria are sometimes based on factors other than protection risk or vulnerability, such as existing links to the country offering admission. Other forms of admission could include allowing Syrian refugees legal access to third countries by relaxing requirements for entry visas to work and study, not necessarily based upon their vulnerabilities. Asylum:   Civilians facing persecution or other risks resulting from armed conflict or massive violations of human rights have a right to flee to safety across international borders and request asylum in another country. States have specific obligations towards asylum seekers under international law, particularly the obligation not to forcibly return them to harm. Many refugees from Syria have sought asylum in countries beyond neighbouring countries. These countries outside the region have the obligation to ensure the right of Syrians to seek asylum at their borders, in addition to responsibility-sharing through increased resettlement. There has also been an increase in the number of refugees from Syria attempting to claim asylum beyond neighbouring countries, accompanied by more reports of refugees making the risky passage across the Mediterranean in particular, and of detention and ill-treatment of asylum 5  See New York Times, No Syrians Are Allowed Into Jordan, Agencies Say http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/world/middleeast/syrian-refugees-jordan-border-united-nations.html?_r=1 and http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/world/middleeast/jordans-open-door-is-now-only-cracked-leaving-syrians-stranded.html. See Government of Lebanon Policy Paper, which states that the border is closed, with a limited number of humanitarian exceptions http://www.pcm.gov.lb/arabic/subpg.aspx?pageid=6118 6  IRC and NRC, No Escape p.4 7  Countries participating in the UNHCR global resettlement program generally establish annual resettlement quotas or ceilings which dictate how many refugees they admit under their national resettlement programs each year. UNHCR and resettlement countries have agreed upon a set of criteria which prioritize access to resettlement for refugees with the highest protection risks, vulnerabilities or special needs,
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