With more than 19 million refugees around the world, half of which are women and children, there is a dire need to explore UNHCR’s three durable solutions and find out how countries can help bring safety and stability in refugees’ lives. Once a person is deemed a refugee, there are three different options with which a person can be moved and re-established so that he or she can lead a normal life. The three durable solutions – voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement – aim to end the cycle of displacement.
Voluntary Repatriation involves refugees returning to their country of origin voluntarily. A number of stakeholders, including UNHCR, host and origin countries, and international NGOs, are involved in the voluntary repatriation process. The process is initiated only when it is established that the return can take place safely and with dignity for those refugees who wish to go home, based on free and informed decision.
Voluntary repatriation is considered the most beneficial solution as it means refugees are returning to their home. However, due to ongoing conflicts in their country of origin and risk of persecution, millions of refugees are unable to return to their home, even if that is what they want. Based on IRIN reports, just 126,000 refugees were able to go home in 2014 compared to 415,000 in 2013.
Local integration involves permanently settling refugees in their first country of asylum. Most of the refugees are stuck in refugee camps for years with little or no opportunity to work or move freely outside the camp. As citizens of the country of asylum, local integration allows refugees to integrate into the local communities, build homes, and above all, it gives them hope and encouragement to start a new life.
Even though local integration is the next best option for those refugees who cannot return to their home due to continued violence, not all asylum countries are capable of providing it as an option. With Syria being deep in conflict, Jordan is hosting approximately 79,000 Syrians in its Za’atari camp, making it one of the country’s largest cities. It is a great burden for Jordan to host the increasing Syrian refugee population or to provide local integration to all, which leads to the third durable solution – resettlement.
Resettlement involves selecting and transferring of refugees from the country of refuge to another country which has agreed to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status. Resettlement provides protection and permanency so it is the most relevant durable solution for those refugees for whom neither repatriation nor local integration is possible. Additionally, it shows international solidarity and responsibility sharing.
The United Nations claims that we are facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 19 million refugees and 59 million displaced. Considering the fact that the first two durable solutions – voluntary repatriation and local integration – are difficult to exercise, it is up to the international community to step up and increase their resettlement numbers, instead of shunning refugees and shying away from responsibility sharing.