What is Resettlement?

UNHCR is mandated to find durable solutions for refugees.  There are three possibilities: voluntary repatriation, local integration in the country of asylum, and resettlement to a third country. Voluntary repatriation remains the preferred durable solution of refugee situations.

Resettlement involves the selection and transfer of refugees from the  State in which they have sought asylum to a third State which has agreed to admit them – as refugees  but with permanent residence status. Resettlement is a limited option available only to refugees who meet precise criteria – only a tiny percentage (less that 1%) of refugees get resettled. Resettlement is not a right. Resettlement consideration is based on protection needs and done on an on-going basis as part of UNHCR’s everyday work.  Refugees are not considered on the basis of how long they have been in Kenya.

How are refugees identified for resettlement?

Resettlement cases are initiated by referrals from other UNHCR protection units or external referrals from select partner organizations. Referrals are based on an assessment of resettlement needs based on UNHCR principles and guidelines. You cannot apply for resettlement. UNHCR identifies refugees for resettlement consideration on an on-going basis by monitoring specific protection needs and vulnerabilities.   The identification of a refugee as being particularly vulnerable does not necessarily mean that the refugee is either eligible for or in need of resettlement. Only persons who have been recognized and registered as a refugee by the Kenyan authorities or UNHCR may be considered for resettlement.

Each year, resettlement countries decide how they will allocate resettlement places among the millions of refugees throughout the world. UNHCR can only consider cases within these limits.   Since resettlement places are very limited, UNHCR must prioritize the cases of refugees who have the most urgent protection needs and vulnerabilities.

Resettlement is a limited option at the disposal of UNHCR to address a refugee’s vulnerability. While assessing an individual case, voluntary repatriation and local integration prospects will also be taken into account.

Can I apply for resettlement?

No. Resettlement is not initiated by an individual refugee application. You should not assume that you have a resettlement case unless you are advised so by the Resettlement Unit.

Do I have a right to be considered for resettlement?

No, resettlement, unlike protection, is not a right. Resettlement is a solution that only applies to refugees in very specific circumstances.

Resettlement is not automatic. Recognition of refugee status does not necessarily mean that a refugee has a case for resettlement.

Resettlement is not a right embodied in international law. There is no obligation on countries to accept refugees for resettlement.

What criteria does UNHCR use to choose cases for resettlement?

UNHCR has specific global criteria and methodologies for resettlement case identification. To qualify:

  • One must have been granted refugee status. Asylum-seekers cannot be processed for resettlement.
  • There must be no prospects for voluntary repatriation or local integration.
  • Refugees must fall under one of the UNHCR resettlement submission categories.

What happens if I am identified for resettlement?

You will be informed of this by UNHCR and will be invited for an interview. The Resettlement Unit uses a two–step process.  Phase 1 is an initial interview to review the referral reasons, family structure and other evidence and Phase 2 is an application completion interview.

Should I stop working or studying when my case considered for resettlement?

No. Even if your case is identified for resettlement, it may take a long time for the process to be completed. Due to limited quotas and specific requirements for these quotas, having a referral or an interview with a resettlement staff member does not guarantee a submission.  It depends on available quotas provided by countries.  Unfortunately, the UNHCR has many cases that have been “deprioritized” due to this reason.  Further your case could also be found to be inappropriate for submission.

I was told that if I paid money to someone, I would be resettled. Is this true?

All services provided by UNHCR and partners are free of cost. You should not pay money for any services, including resettlement.

What will I be asked in a resettlement interview?

During the resettlement interview, a refugee will be asked a variety of questions. To facilitate a smooth process and a fair assessment, the refugee is requested to ensure that they tell the truth. The interview is an opportunity for the refugee to present his/her situation so that UNHCR can have a detailed understanding of the circumstances of the case. The refugee is reminded to provide any relevant identity, travel, or other documents which they may have. The fact that you were interviewed does not guarantee that you will be resettled.

UNHCR conducts the interview individually with each adult refugee applicants in the case. The interview is conducted in the language preferred by the refugee applicant and also, he/she can express their preference as to the interpreter and gender of the interviewer.

If I have been interviewed for resettlement, when should I follow-up on my case?

A refugee can inquire as to the status of a case through the helpline or on a counselling day. However, simply because the Resettlement Unit received a referral does not mean the Resettlement Unit can process the case immediately.

Different countries have different requirements.  If your case does not meet the requirements of the countries the case may have to be deprioritized and revisited at another time when there are opportunities. Requirements of countries sometimes involve nationalities, case sizes, ages of refugees, languages, etc.

Further, the Resettlement Unit is working with a large number of cases that are currently pending, many of which are urgent. Many cases had to be deprioritized due to the lack of available quotas. Please be patient. It is a long process.

What happens if I have been interviewed for resettlement and there is a change in my family, such as marriage, birth or death?

You should inform UNHCR as soon as possible. Registration changes will be done by RAS.

How do I know if I have a resettlement case?

If you suspect a referral for resettlement in your case has been made but you have not been contacted by the  Resettlement Unit about your referral, you can inquire whether your referral was received and the outcome through the Helpline.

Can I choose which country I would like to be resettled to?

No. Resettlement is not a right and resettlement places are limited; UNHCR does not submit cases to countries according to refugees’ preferences.

Who makes the final decision on my case for resettlement?

The final decision is made by the country of resettlement.

How can I know the status of my resettlement case with UNHCR?

Due to the large number of cases that the RST Unit handles, they may not be able to give feedback on your case all the time. If reasonable time has lapsed since the last time you received feedback on your case, you can inquire on the status of your case through the Helpline.

For cases that have already been submitted to a RST country, some RST countries have channels for tracking case progress. In general, be patient, you will be contacted any time there is a new development in your case.

How long does it take between the resettlement interview and departure?

The entire resettlement process is complex and takes a long time. Different cases are also processed at different timelines depending on many factors. Refugees whose cases have been submitted for resettlement should be patient while the case is being processed. It may be one to two years, or sometimes longer, for a final decision and departure to the resettlement country.

What happens if my case is rejected for resettlement?

If your case is rejected, you will be informed and your resettlement case will be closed, and you will be no longer with the resettlement process.

Can I appeal in case of denial?

It depends on the stage at which the case is denied. If your case is denied at UNHCR level, there is no right of appeal.

If your case is rejected by a resettlement country, the decision will tell you if there is a chance for appeal or not. Some countries have an opportunity for appeal while others do not. For instance, the USA has an appeal procedure known as Request for Review (RFR) within 90 days when upon receiving the decision letter.

My case was rejected by a resettlement country. When will my case be resubmitted?

Your case was rejected for reasons that were made available to you. We are currently being faced with a shortage of resettlement slots.  Accordingly, we are currently not resubmitting cases that have previously been rejected.   With the US you may be able to file a Request for Review (RfR). It is important, however, that you know why the case has been rejected so you can address that issue in the RfR. This information can be obtained from the country that was processing your case.

Can I withdraw my application after it was submitted for resettlement?

Yes. Once you withdraw your case, UNHCR will close your resettlement case and you will no longer be processed for resettlement.

Can I change the country of resettlement?

No. Refugee applicants do not have any preferences concerning the resettlement countries. It will be determined by UNHCR based on your profile meeting the resettlement criteria imposed by the resettlement countries.

If I am resettled can my family members join me afterwards?

UNHCR cannot  guarantee  the resettlement of your family members who are left behind. It depends upon the resettlement countries’ laws and decision whether they may join you afterwards.

Will I be able to work in the resettlement country?

Yes. Resettlement is based on the expectation that you will have some permanent legal status in the RST country.

Can I apply directly for resettlement through an Embassy?

No. If it is resettlement then the Resettlement Countries directly contact with UNHCR and allocate quota for the refugees.

Can I join my family members in a third country through family reunification procedures?

Yes, you can join your family members in a third country through the family reunification procedures however it is not guaranteed and will only happen once the family reunification is accepted by the resettlement country. Upon acceptance, you will be called upon for the process by UNHCR.

Is the resettlement process and/or UNHCR’s services free of charge?

Yes. UNHCR does not charge any money to refugee applicants for the process.

See also

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