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 recent European Refugee Fund (ERF) 2008-2013, and now, the aforementioned 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
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. For the purposes of the AMIF, the European Commission defines resettlement 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' within the meaning of point (e) of Article 2 of Directive 2011/95/EU
- 'subsidiary protection status' within the meaning of point (g) of Article 2 of Directive 2011/95/EU; or
- any other status which offers similar rights and benefits under national and Union law as those referred to in points (i) and (ii)’
The definition stipulates two clear conditions which 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 criteria 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 either refugee status or an equivalent status offering the same rights and benefits so as to guarantee effectiveness and the durability of the protection solution. Additionally, AMIF requires that refugees must be resettled within the calendar year of the respective annual AMIF programme. 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).32 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, and €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, there will be three resettlement pledging periods: 2014-2015, 2016-2017 and 2018-2020. Member States are still in the process of finalising and submitting their Pledging Plan for the period 2014-2015.
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.36 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.
- The country sections under Chapter VI highlight examples of how ERF funding has been used to support initiatives to improve national resettlement programmes, including:
- piloting the selection of refugees for resettlement via video interviewing;
- developing new approaches to pre-departure cultural orientation, including specific measures for dossier cases;
- adapting reception arrangements, for example, by receiving resettled refugees directly into municipalities rather than reception centres; and
- promoting targeted integration support programmes for resettled refugees involving NGO counselling, volunteering, translation, national networking, language learning, employment support and housing arrangements.
Challenges Experienced in Using ERF Funding – Lessons for AMIF
While resettlement processes have been improved through ERF fundinding, civil society partners highlighted a number of constraints in its operation. These included delays in the distribution of funds to NGOs by national governments, and difficulties in administering initiatives in which ERF beneficiaries had to be separated from other groups using the same services. (The latter happens regularly at the level of service provision in communities hosting resettled refugees.) One can also question how far the additional ERF objective of increasing the number of refugees resettled to Member States has been achieved. For example, more than 75% of the 15,292 resettlement places pledged under ERF III for the period 2008-12 were offered by countries already engaged in resettlement .
Sweden, for instance, requested funding for the resettlement of 8,955 persons, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the places pledged by Member States during this period. Despite this, ERF III enabled new and – in the European context – extremely important countries such as Germany to engage in regular resettlement. The chart above provides an overview of the number of resettlement places pledged by Member States during the period 2008-2012.