The Carlow Cricket Team now includes members from 13 different nationalities. © 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 cannot go home or are unwilling to do so because their life or freedom would be threatened.

Resettled refugees, on the other hand, are transferred from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement. UNHCR is mandated by its Statute and the UN General Assembly Resolutions to undertake resettlement as one of the three durable solutions (the others being voluntary repatriation and integration into the host country). Resettlement is unique in that it is the only durable solution that involves the relocation of refugees from an asylum country to a third country.

Of the 14.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world, less than one per cent is submitted for resettlement.

Only a small number of States take part in UNHCR’s resettlement programme. The United States is the world’s top resettlement country, while Australia, Canada and the Nordic countries also provide a sizeable number of places annually.

In 1998, Ireland was among the first six countries in Europe to establish a resettlement programme. The Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme has been in operation since 2000 and is run by the Irish government in collaboration with UNHCR. Under the Programme, persons who have been determined to be refugees by UNHCR in a country of refuge outside the EU, and who fall within a UNHCR resettlement submission category, are resettled directly to Ireland in line with Irish quotas.  As they have already been determined by UNHCR to meet the 1951 Refugee Convention definition of a refugee, they are not required to apply for refugee status in Ireland. Instead, resettled refugees are granted the status of ‘programme refugee’. This differs from refugees who arrived spontaneously and independently in the State and who must apply for and be determined by the Irish asylum authorities to be eligible for refugee status; they are often referred to as ‘Convention refugees’.

Syrian refugees between 2011-2015

Refugees from Syria represent 57 per cent of the total number of persons resettled to Ireland between 2011 and 2015. The second largest proportion, 14 per cent, is made up of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The majority of refugees resettled from 2011-2015, mainly of Syrian nationality, have been and continue to be resettled from Lebanon. During the same period, refugees of different nationalities have been resettled from other countries including Jordan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them.

Providing for their effective reception and integration is beneficial for both the resettled refugee and the receiving country. Governments and non-governmental organization partners provide services to facilitate integration, such as cultural orientation, language and vocational training, as well as programmes to promote access to education and employment.

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


While resettlement involves the movement of refugees from a country outside of the EU to an EU Member State, relocation refers to the movement of refugees from one EU Member State to another. It is an intra-EU process, in which Member States help another Member State to cope with the pressure of hosting a relatively large refugee population by agreeing to receive a number of them. Relocation is an expression of internal EU solidarity and burden-sharing, particularly with those countries at the borders of Europe (Italy, Greece and Hungary) that receive a high number of refugees.

Ireland relocated 30 people between 2011 and 2013 from Malta under EU-led relocation programmes.   Ireland did not participate in relocation again until early 2016 when 10 relocated persons arrived from Greece. In 2015, Ireland agreed to accept 2,622 asylum seekers under the EU Relocation Programme.

Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme

In addition to Ireland’s established refugee resettlement and relocation programmes, the government introduced a once-off private sponsorship scheme in 2014 in response to the deteriorating crisis in Syria: the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP). Ireland is one of only six European countries to have initiated a private sponsorship scheme.

Applications for SHAP could be made during a six week period between 14 March 2014 and 30 April 2014. SHAP allowed Irish citizens of Syrian birth and Syrian nationals lawfully resident in Ireland to apply to bring family members in Syria, or displaced from Syria in surrounding countries, to Ireland. Each sponsor was able to submit applications for up to four ‘of their most vulnerable family members’, while prioritising two.

The Family Reunification Unit in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) had responsibility for receiving and processing applications made under SHAP. Ireland provided permission to reside in Ireland to 119  persons utilising the SHAP scheme out of applications made on behalf of 308 persons. The SHAP beneficiaries were initially permitted to reside in Ireland for 2 years.

What is resettlement?

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

Click here to find out more >>

Resettlement Handbook

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

Click here to find out more >>

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.

Click here to find out more >>

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.

Click here to find out more >>