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What is the role of the UNHCR in resettlement programs?

What is the UNHCR?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also called the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization. According to the Protection Handbook, the UNHCR “has the responsibility to work with countries in protecting uprooted people and finding them permanent solutions”, making the UNHCR crucial in the resettlement of refugees around the world. 

How does Canada and the UNHCR collaborate in the resettlement process? 

Canada is a key player in the resettlement of refugees from around the world. Canada relies on the UNHCR to help determine which refugees will resettle in Canada. 

The UNHCR supports the resettlement of individuals: 

  • who have been recognized as refugees under their mandate, 
  • for whom resettlement is the most appropriate durable solution, and 
  • who fall under UNHCR’s Resettlement Submission Categories
    • Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs, Survivors of Torture and/or Violence, 
    • Medical Needs, 
    • Women and Girls at Risk, 
    • Family Reunification, 
    • Children and Adolescents at Risk, and 
    • Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions. 

Only the most vulnerable refugees are referred by the UNHCR for resettlement.

When a case is referred for possible resettlement, the UNHCR resettlement staff first verifies the individual’s registration and refugee status before setting up an appointment for a resettlement interview. The resettlement interview will include all family members listed in the case, and an interpreter if one is needed.

Resettlement of refugees around the world

In 2020, refugee resettlement reached a historically low level, with 22,800 departures to resettlement countries in total. Those resettled were mostly from Syria (9,377), Democratic Republic of the Congo (3,731) and Myanmar (1,757). The majority resettled in the United States (6,740), Sweden (3,567) and Canada (3,502). The UNHCR estimates 1.44 million refugees are in need of resettlement globally.

For more information

To learn more about refugee resettlement and the UNHCR’s role, you can watch this video from the UNHCR and read their Protection Handbook

To learn more about resettlement programs in Canada, you can read “What are the different refugee resettlement programs?”, an article from Welcome Ontario.