State participation in resettlement is voluntary. To promote resettlement in Europe, the European Commission introduced a system of funding and financial incentives for States’ resettlement activities under the former European Refugee Fund (ERF) for the period 2008-2013, and currently, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Indeed, funding remains the primary mechanism through which the EU incentivizes Member States to engage in resettlement, and encourages existing resettlement countries to increase their quotas. Such funding has also become a vital tool for developing a European policy framework for resettlement.
AMIF FUNDING FOR RESETTLEMENT
In April 2014, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament adopted a Regulation setting up the new AMIF financial instrument for the period 2014-2020, which was allocated a total of €3.137 billion. All EU Member States, with the exception of Denmark, participate in the Fund.
According to the European Commission, AMIF aims to “promote the efficient management of migration flows and the implementation, strengthening and development of a common Union approach to asylum and immigration” by achieving four specific objectives:
- Asylum: strengthening and developing the Common European Asylum System by ensuring that EU legislation in this field is efficiently and uniformly applied;
- Legal migration and integration: supporting legal migration to EU States in line with the labour market needs and promoting the effective integration of non-EU nationals;
- Return: enhancing fair and effective return strategies, which contribute to combating irregular migration, with an emphasis on sustainability and effectiveness of the return process;
- Solidarity: making sure that EU States which are most affected by migration and asylum flows can count on solidarity from other EU States
The Fund provides specific financial incentives to support EU resettlement, as detailed below.
Virtually all types of Member State activities related to resettlement can be financially supported under the AMIF, including those taking place both pre-departure in countries of asylum, and post-arrival in Europe (see Article 7). For the purposes of the AMIF, the European Commission defines resettlement (in Article 2) as:
the process whereby, on a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) based on a person’s need for international protection, third-country nationals are transferred from a third country and established in a Member State where they are permitted to reside with one of the following statuses:
- 'refugee status' as defined in the EU Qualification Directive (Article 2 point (e));
- 'subsidiary protection status' (point (g) of Article 2, Qualification Directive); or
- any other status which offers similar rights and benefits under national and Union law as enjoyed by beneficiaries of refugee status and/or subsidiary protection status
Two clear conditions must be satisfied before an action can be considered as ‘resettlement’ and therefore eligible for AMIF financing:
- Eligibility assessment by UNHCR - only actions undertaken by Member States for the resettlement of persons who have been identified as eligible for resettlement by UNHCR (according to the resettlement submission categories set out in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook) can be financed under the AMIF.
- Status of resettled persons on arrival - Member States must grant persons resettled on their territory a status offering a level of rights that ensures effective protection and a durable solution. The European Commission uses a number of different methods to monitor fulfilment of these conditions, including Member State reports, requests for Member States to provide additional information and unannounced ‘spot-checks’. It is also noted that the European Commission, in cooperation with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and in accordance with their respective competences, should monitor the effective implementation of resettlement operations supported under the Fund.
AMIF funding for resettlement is allocated through three channels:
1) National programmes - the major part of AMIF resettlement funds are allocated to national programmes (where Member States include refugee resettlement pledges in national AMIF programmes). An AMIF contribution in this context normally cannot exceed 75 per cent of the total costs of the specific action; however, this may increase to up to 90 per cent in specific circumstances.
2) Lump sum per resettled refugee – the AMIF provides Member States with a lump sum amount of €6,000 for each resettled refugee, which is increased to €10,000 for each resettled refugee falling into one of the following categories:
- Persons from a country or region designated for the implementation of a Regional Protection Programme (Annex III of the AMIF lists the common Union resettlement priorities);
- Women and children at risk;
- Unaccompanied minors;
- Persons having medical needs that can be addressed only through resettlement;
- Persons in need of emergency resettlement or urgent resettlement for legal or physical protection needs, including victims of violence or torture.
In order to receive the lump sum payments, Member States must communicate in advance to the European Commission how many refugees they plan to receive under the above categories. In contrast to the ERF, AMIF foresees three resettlement pledging periods: 2014-2015, 2016-2017 and 2018-2020. Additionally, AMIF requires that refugees must be resettled within the last calendar year of the respective annual AMIF programme.
3) Union Actions – which are managed centrally by the European Commission (this was previously termed Community Actions under the ERF), are designed to promote practical cooperation in resettlement between actors in two or more EU Member States. Under the ERF this was largely used to support Member States such as the Czech Republic and Romania to initiate or pilot new national resettlement programmes, or to expand and/or improve national programmes (e.g. the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK). Such initiatives should continue under the Union Actions, with some €385 million available, including for emergencies. Emergency funds will be granted upon justified requests from Member States and International Organisations, and can be reimbursed up to 100 per cent (retroactively), including in third countries. Humanitarian admission-type programmes can be financed under this mechanism or through Member States national programmes.
In July 2017, the European Commission launched a resettlement pledging exercise for 2018, aimed to ensure continued support to resettlement programmes throughout the transition period from existing - but concluding - EU resettlement schemes to the operationalisation of the Union Resettlement Framework, which is expected to be adopted in the near future. In July 2017, the Commission earmarked an initial amount of €377.5 million to finance the resettlement of 37,750 individuals.
However, at the end of September the Commission issued a Recommendation to expand legal channels into the EU for third-country nationals in need of international protection, which increased the resettlement target, although the time frame under which resettlement would take place was also extended. Recognising UNHCR’s projected resettlement needs for 2018 – 1.2 million people worldwide -, the Commission called for the resettlement of at least 50,000 eligible individuals to be admitted by 31 October 2019. For this purpose, a €500 million budget was mobilised through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Participating Member States are be entitled to a lump sum of €10,000 per person resettled from priority regions, as foreseen under Article 17(2) of the AMIF Regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council). 20 Member States pledged 50,039 resettlement places for the period of 2018 to October 2019, with a target of resettling 50 per cent by October 2018.
Geographical priorities for resettlement under this scheme include continued resettlement from Turkey as well as Jordan and Lebanon. The Commission also emphasised the need to resettle from key African countries along the Central Mediterranean route, namely Libya, Egypt, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia. This was in line with UNHCR’s call for an additional 40,000 resettlement places to be made available for refugees located in 15 priority countries along the Central Mediterranean route, where resettlement needs were estimated at 277,000. To advance efforts on this issue, a Core Group for Enhanced Resettlement and Complementary Pathways along the Central Mediterranean route was established, which is co-chaired with France and whose members include global resettlement States, IOM, the European Union and UNHCR.
With continued attention throughout 2017 on the tragic loss of life in Mediterranean Sea, UNHCR established an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger for the emergency evacuation of the most vulnerable persons in need of international protection from Libya to Niger with a view to their onward resettlement. The European Union supports the initiative financially, and many EU countries pledged to resettle refugees evacuated through the ETM.
By the end of 2017, operational details of a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme with Turkey (VHAS) were concluded between the EU and Turkey. The establishment of the VHAS was suggested in a Recommendation adopted by the European Commission in December 2015. Within the framework envisaged by the Recommendation, participating States will admit persons displaced by the conflict in Syria in need of international protection, who were registered by Turkish authorities before 29 November 2015. Following their admission to the EU, beneficiaries will be granted a temporary status, which should be valid for no less than one year. Despite agreement on the operational modalities, the VHAS needs to be triggered by EU leaders to be implemented.
The proposal for a Union Resettlement Framework was tabled by the Commission in July 2016. In October 2017, the European Parliament adopted its position on the legislative proposal, followed by the Council the following month. The co-legislators negotiate to reach an agreement on the final text.