A Sudanese migrant from the western region of Darfur, Mahmoud Mohamed Omar, shows his residence permit while standing by his tent in the migrant camp located in Paris | Photo: EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
A Sudanese migrant from the western region of Darfur, Mahmoud Mohamed Omar, shows his residence permit while standing by his tent in the migrant camp located in Paris | Photo: EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

A growing number of refugees are getting permits for family, work and study reasons, according to a study by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

OECD countries have admitted more people from major refugee source countries on non-humanitarian permits than through resettlement schemes in the last eight years. That's what a study by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, titled “Safe Pathways for Refugees” shows. More than 560,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea  entered OECD countries through family, work and study permits. This compares to 350,400 who arrived through resettlement schemes. 

These figures do not include people from the five countries who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian permits through national asylum systems and procedures. These amount to 1.5 million in the same period. 

Figures on non-humanitarian permits 

The report found that of all the non-humanitarian entry permits issued by OECD nations to people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea... 
... family permits accounted for 86 percent
... followed by student permits (10 percent) 
... and work permits (four percent). 

"In the current global context of large-scale refugee flows and forced displacement, alternative pathways - family, study and work permits - can play an important contribution," said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD’s Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. 

"While these pathways are not a substitute for resettlement, they can complement humanitarian programmes by facilitating safe and legal entry for refugees to other countries. Not only can this help mitigate refugees having to resort to dangerous journeys, it will also go some way towards alleviating the strains on major refugee hosting nations," said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk.

Non-humanitarian permits help a great deal 

Most refugees are being hosted in developing countries, which lack the adequate ressources to accommodate refugees. This is why refugee advocates believe it is essential for OECD nations to take in displaced people. The OECD has 36 member states that include mostly highly developed, wealthy countries, including economic powerhouses like Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States. 

With developing regions hosting 85 percent of the world’s refugees, or 16.9 million people, ensuring a more timely, equitable and predictable sharing of responsibilities by increasing access for refugees to move to third countries is a key objective of the Global Compact on Refugees, UNHCR noted. Findings from this report would support the development of a three-year strategy envisaged by the Global Compact on Refugees to expand resettlement and complementary pathways, it said. 
 

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