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European scheme for the resettlement of refugees

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European scheme for the resettlement of refugees



Recommendation (EU) 2015/914 on a European resettlement scheme


  • This recommendation for a resettlement* scheme is part of a first set of measures that fall under the European Agenda on Migration that the European Commission presented in May 2015.
  • It calls on European Union (EU) countries to resettle 20,000 persons in clear need of international protection on their territory and to offer them international protection such as refugee status, so that these displaced persons do not have to resort to traffickers to reach the EU.


What is a resettlement measure?

  • Resettlement is the process whereby, upon on proposal by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), displaced people in clear need of international protection are transferred from a non-EU country and established in an EU country with a legal form of protection. Each EU country remains responsible for its individual admission decisions.
  • Resettlement must not be confused with relocation* measures, also proposed by the Agenda on Migration, which provide a distribution mechanism for persons in need of international protection within the EU.
  • The priority regions of origin of people to be resettled to the EU in the context of this recommendation include North Africa, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Distribution key

The overall resettlement places are to be distributed amongst EU countries on the basis of a distribution key based on the following criteria:

  • the EU country’s gross domestic product to reflect its economic capacity to host refugees (40 %);
  • the size of its population to take into account its capacity to absorb a certain number of refugees (40 %);
  • its unemployment rate as an indicator of its capacity to integrate refugees (10 %);
  • the past numbers of asylum applications and the number of resettled refugees per 1 million inhabitants between 2010 and 2014, as this reflects the efforts made by the EU country in the recent past (10 %).

On the basis of this key, Germany would resettle the largest number of people (3,086 or 15.4 %), followed by France (2,375 — 11.8 %), the UK (2,309 — 11.5 %) and Italy (1,989 — 9.9 %).


A further €50 million from the EU’s 2015 budget would be used to support this scheme. Additional money for the EU-wide resettlement scheme (spread evenly across 2015 and 2016) would be added to the special Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.


Participation in the resettlement scheme is voluntary. EU countries were requested to commit to the recommended resettlement places by September 2015.

The UNHCR and other relevant organisations are to assist the EU in the implementation of the scheme (with measures such as identifying and transfer of asylum seekers). The European Asylum Support Office will also be involved in the scheme.


The duration of the proposed scheme is 2 years, from the date of the adoption of the recommendation (8 June 2015).


After several tragedies where thousands of lives were lost in trying to reach the EU’s Mediterranean coasts, the EU has put forward a joint response to migration.

In May 2015, the Commission presented the EU Agenda on Migration, which sets out a comprehensive approach including a first implementation package of measures, namely:

  • this resettlement scheme for 20,000 persons from outside the EU;
  • the relocation of 40,000 asylum seekers for the benefit of Italy and Greece;
  • an action plan on smuggling;
  • the enforcement of the Triton and Poseidon operations at sea, led by Frontex, to help save more lives in the Mediterranean sea.

This recommendation was followed by conclusions of the representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 20 July 2015 to resettle, through multilateral and national schemes, 22,504 persons in clear need of international protection. The resettlement places were distributed between EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland according to commitments set out in the annex to the conclusions and not according to the distribution key set out in the recommendation.

The Commission proposed a further set of migration measures in September 2015. These include an emergency relocation proposal for 120,000 persons in clear need of protection (from Greece, Hungary and Italy) and a permanent crisis relocation mechanism for all EU countries.

For more information, see:


Resettlement: scheme through which EU countries provide international protection and a long-term solution in their territories to refugees and displaced persons. The UNHCR identifies these people as eligible for resettlement with a view to granting them a secure legal status. EU countries remain responsible for individual admission decisions.

Relocation: transfer of persons who are in need of, or already benefit from, a form of international protection in one EU country to another EU country where they would be granted similar protection. Relocation is an EU solidarity measure to help EU countries facing a large influx of asylum seekers or refugees.


Commission Recommendation (EU) 2015/914 of 8 June 2015 on a European resettlement scheme (OJ L 148, 13.6.2015, pp. 32-37)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A European Agenda on Migration (COM(2015) 240 final, 13.5.2015)

last update 18.08.2016