Karen Community Leader Paw Shee Hta in her back garden, Castlebar, 2011  © UNHCR/Phil.Behan


You might ask what is the difference between refugees who initially entered Ireland to seek asylum and resettled refugees?

Most refugees enter Ireland as asylum seekers without assistance from UNHCR. If their fear of persecution is assessed as being well-founded through the refugee determination system conducted by the Irish asylum authorities, they are granted refugee status. They can not go home or are unwilling to do so because their life or freedom would be threatened.

Resettled refugees, on the other hand, are normally people who were first admitted to a safe country on a temporary basis, or whose specific needs could not be addressed in the country where they had initially sought protection These people are then assisted by UNHCR to move to a more appropriate country of permanent refuge like Ireland.

Of the 10.5 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world, only about 1 percent are referred for resettlement by UNHCR.

The United States of America is the world's top resettlement country, while Australia, Canada, the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) and the Netherlands also provide a sizeable number of places annually. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of countries involved in resettlement in Europe and Latin America. Other countries with smaller resettlement programmes include Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal and the UK.

Ireland operates an annual resettlement quota of about 100 people on referral from UNHCR or identified through selection missions to existing UNHCR refugee operations. The resettlement programme in Ireland is coordinated by The Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration. Examples of groups resettled to Ireland include:

  • Hungarians, resettled from places like Austria after events associated with the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.
  • Vietnamese refugees who came to Ireland in the late 1970s
  • Bosnians and later Kosovars on a Humanitarian Evacuation Programme in the 1990s.

In recent years, Ireland resettled:

  • Myanmar Karen and Rohingyan refugees (resettled from Thailand and Bangladesh, respectively)
  • Iranian Kurd refugees (from Jordan)
  • Sudanese refugees (from Uganda)
  • Congolese refugees (from Tanzania)

These resettled refugees underwent an 8 week orientation programme in Ballyhaunis in Co. Mayo before being relocated into communities like Ballina and Kilkenny, for example.

Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. A resettlement country provides the refugee with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Governments and non-governmental organisations provide services to facilitate integration, such as cultural orientation, language and vocational training as well as programmes to promote access to education and employment. Providing for their effective reception and integration is beneficial for both the resettled refugee and the receiving country. Ideally, resettled refugees should be facilitated to become naturalised citizens.

If you would like more information on the international resettlement programme please visit UNHCR’s global website here.

What is resettlement?

Some refugees can't go home and can't stay where they are. Resettlement is the answer.

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Resettlement Handbook

A key reference for UNHCR in elaborating resettlement criteria and developing new approaches to policy definition.

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Partnerships in resettlement

In order to accomplish the enormous task of resettling refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people around the world, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must work together with governments, a wide range of humanitarian organisations, the private sector, and even the military.

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UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2011

Including overview of UNHCR resettlement achievements in 2009, operational challenges and strategic directions for 2010-2011, published June 2010.

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