United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization “dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people”.

The key legal document that forms the basis of its work is the 1951 Refugee Convention. This convention, which was ratified by 145 State parties, defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.

UNHCR serves as the ‘guardian’ of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to the legislation, States are expected to cooperate in ensuring that the rights of refugees are respected and protected.

The Global Compact on Refugees

The GCR was affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. Its objectives are to:

  • Ease pressures on host countries
  • Enhance refugee self-reliance
  • Expand access to third country solutions
  • Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity

These four objectives are interlinked and interdependent, and can be achieved through the mobilization of political will, a broadened support base, and arrangements that facilitate more equitable, sustained and predictable contributions by States and other relevant stakeholders.

The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) affirms that “in line with national education laws, policies and planning, and in support of host countries, States and relevant stakeholders will contribute resources and expertise to expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee and host community children (both boys and girls), adolescents and youth to primary, secondary and tertiary education.”

The Compact further recognizes the importance of “measures to strengthen the agency of women and girls, to promote women’s economic empowerment and to support access by women and girls to education (including secondary and tertiary education).”

Access to secondary and tertiary education is the first step in closing the gap between learning and earning and is central to the objectives of the Global Compact to enhance refugee self-reliance. UNHCR and a strong network of commitment partners are developing a strategic roadmap to support progress towards the 15by30 target.

How the EU manages migration flows

In order to to manage the legal flows of migration, the EU has adopted various sets of rules and frameworks which include common rules for processing asylum requests and readmission agreements for returning illegal migrants.

Resettlement

Resettlement allows refugees in need of protection to enter the EU legally and safely without having to risk their lives by making dangerous journeys.

Since 2015, two successful EU-sponsored resettlement programmes have helped more than 70 000 of the most vulnerable people in need of international protection find shelter in the European Union:

  • 19 452 people were resettled in the EU under the first resettlement scheme of 2015
  • almost 44 000 people were resettled under the second resettlement scheme of 2017 and member states will continue to be able to  implement their pledges still in 2020 and 2021

The two schemes covered 86% of the total resettlement pledges. Moreover, as of mid-Septmber 2020, more than 27 000 people have been resettled under the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016.

However, the coronavirus outbreak has led to a severe disruption of resettlement operations and the original one-year programme has been transformed into a two-year programme, covering 2020-2021.

To ensure the seamless continuation of EU resettlement efforts, new resettlement programmes should be considered from 2022 onwards, taking into account the financial resources allocated in the 2021-2027 asylum and migration fund to support member states’ pledges.

Read more about EU’s migration flow management

The EU blue card

On 7 October 2021, the Council adopted new rules to attract and retain highly qualified workers from non-EU countries, particularly in sectors facing skills shortages in the EU.

The blue card directive further harmonises the conditions of entry and residence for highly qualified workers from non-EU countries by:

  • establishing admission criteria that are more inclusive
  • facilitating intra-EU mobility
  • easing family reunification
  • simplifying procedures for recognised employers
  • granting a very high level of access to the labour market

Read more about the blue card