An Iraqi boy carries a birdcage on his back as he flees from the Old City of Mosul on June 20, 2017. (Photo/Agencies)
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR on Monday warned of a widening gap between the number of refugees in need of resettlement and the places made available by governments around the world, saying that it would take 18 years for the world's most vulnerable refugees to be resettled.
In its Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2019 report tabled at its annual forum on the subject in Geneva, UNHCR said the number of refugees who need a solution in third countries had grown to a projected 1.4 million in 2019, while the number of resettlement places globally had dropped to just 75,000 in 2017.
"In Niger just last week, I saw how resettlement is literally saving lives, as part of an innovative scheme to evacuate refugees rescued from horrendous conditions in Libya and resettle them onwards from Niger to new countries. We need more resettlement places to allow this program to continue," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
Increasing opportunities for refugees to move to third countries is a key objective in the new comprehensive approach to refugee situations agreed to by UN Member States in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016.
It is also a central plank of a new global compact on refugees to come before the UN General Assembly by the end of 2018.
"We urgently need more countries to enter the ranks of resettlement states and for those already on board to find ways to increase their programs," Grandi said.
According to the new report, thirty-five countries now take part in UNHCR's resettlement program, up from 27 states in 2008. Refugees from Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made up two-thirds of the refugees submitted for resettlement by UNHCR in 2017.
More than 250 delegates from governments, NGOs, universities, the private sector and refugees themselves are attending UNHCR's Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement in Geneva this week, which is the principle forum on resettlement issues globally.