10,000 refugees from Iraq: A report on joint resettlement in the European Union

 

Violence has forced millions of Iraqi children, women and men to flee their homes and seek refuge both inside and beyond their country’s borders. In light of the challenges preventing refugees from returning to Iraq and of the obstacles to local integration in host countries like Jordan and Syria, for many of the most vulnerable refugees, resettlement in a new country is the only durable solution. With this report, the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) want to find out how far EU Member States have come to meet the pledge of resettling up to 10 000 refugees from Iraq, as expressed in the joint EU call of November 2008, and to document what can be considered as a first experience of joint  resettlement in the European Union.

After the Iraqi refugee crisis erupted in 2006, a coordinated EU response was slow to build up and initially relied on the generosity of eight countries with established resettlement programmes. These countries offered some 3 300 places for Iraqi refugees between 2007 and 2008. Under the leadership of Member States like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, and with the support of the European Commission, the EU response was energised by the November 2008 Council Conclusions and by the decision of a number of countries to establish ad hoc resettlement quotas. As a result, in 2009 alone, twelve EU countries were able to offer over 5 100 resettlement places, thereby bringing the number of resettled refugees from Iraq since 2007 to just over 8 400, and showing that EU countries are able to make a difference by acting together. At the same time, although the joint effort for Iraqi refugees clearly contributed to an increase in resettlement places available for refugees in the EU, with the global increase in resettlement between 2007 and 2009, the relative contribution of the EU has remained unchanged.

The report also describes how resettlement of Iraqis has been carried out in each of the countries involved and makes recommendations to guide further steps by both the EU, as it develops its first Joint EU Resettlement Programme, and the Member States. The November 2008 pledge to resettle up to 10 000 refugees from Iraq has not yet been met and it is not clear how and when this will happen. The question is how much more are the EU and its Member States prepared to do to address the continuing needs of Iraqi and other refugees in need of durable solutions.