Council welcomes joint EU resettlement programme

The Council welcomed the Commission's recent communication on a joint EU resettlement programme and a related proposal amending a Council decision on the European Refugee Fund (ERF) for the period 2008 to 2013. Ministers broadly supported the idea of moving towards a joint EU resettlement programme.

Resettlement means the transfer of refugees who have been given temporary protection in a first country of asylum to another safe country where they can start a new life and find permanent protection. The vast majority of the world's refugees find themselves in countries that are in the same region as their native land. Most temporary refuges are in developing countries which cannot absorb large numbers of  displaced persons. Where return to the country of origin is not possible, resettlement may be the only solution. This is why Commission proposed to increase collaboration between member states to protect refugees.

The proposed  scheme would apply only to the resettlement of refugees from third countries in EU member states. Each one of the 27 would decide for itself whether to participate and how many refugees it was ready to resettle.They subscribed to the overall goal of closer political and practical cooperation among member states, so as to improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency as well as the humanitarian and strategic impact of their resettlement activities. At the same time, they underlined the importance that the programme should work on a strictly voluntary basis.

The Commission proposal foresees to establish every year common priorities on resettlement which could apply to geographic regions and nationalities as well as to specific categories of refugees. Member states would then decide if and to what extent they participate in the joint EU resettlement programme in a given year. Those that decide to take part would receive financial assistance of EUR 4.000 per resettled person from the European Refugee Fund.

The Council welcomed the Commission's plans to involve the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in the joint EU resettlement programme. The creation of EASO is another proposal from the European Commission, and it is expected to be set up in the coming months and become operational in 2010. Its role would be to carry out concrete activities with the member states, such as selection and fact-finding missions, pre-departure orientation programmes, medical screenings, travel or visa arrangements.

To take work forward, ministers requested the relevant Council bodies to examine the proposals more in detail. As the amendments to the European Refugee Fund (ERF) decision is a matter of co-decision, the Council also looks forward to close cooperation with the European Parliament.