Resettlement programmes and the UK

Written by George J. Wright IV in May 2003 and updated in August 2005, with input from Kim Ward and Esme Peach. 

Refugee resettlement has recently received the attention of UK policy-makers, refugee organisations, and academics as a once neglected, now effective mechanism for international refugee protection. Yet the UK boasts a long history of providing a safe haven to the world’s most vulnerable peoples, and it is from the experiences of this legacy that a new resettlement programme is being developed.

The UK, however, also faces different challenges with this latest initiative. Namely, how does a programmed quota system, which draws refugees from distant regions of the world, coexist (socially, legally, and politically) with the fluctuations in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Western Europe and with new managed migration programmes?

The purpose of this guide is not to make recommendations regarding the new resettlement programme in the UK. This guide serves only as an unbiased introduction to the process of resettlement, its international and domestic legal foundations, and some of the topic’s key issues, as debated by policy makers, non-governmental organisations, and academics. The guide is written for the informed novice: someone who follows refugee and asylum news but may not be able to accurately define ‘resettlement’. Policy-makers and members of the press may also find this guide useful. Refugee resettlement is a massive topic. Necessarily, this guide will only touch upon resettlement’s most general facets and currently pressing issues, as related to the United Kingdom. The guide is, however, filled with bibliographic listings and links, which can be explored for a more in-depth subject analysis. The guide and resource links are maintained by ICAR and will be updated on a regular basis.

about the author

George Wright currently works for Catholic Charities Maine, Refugee and Immigration Services, in Maine, USA. He has previously been employed a research analyst at Crescendo Consulting Group, LLC in Portland, Maine, and a research consultant for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program in the US. George has conducted research on the long-term integration concerns of Sudanese ‘Lost Boys’ refugees resettled in Vermont and has also worked with ICAR as a researcher. He holds an MA in Human Rights from the University of Essex. This guide has been updated by George Wright, and Kim Ward and Esme Peach, information officers at ICAR.


The author wishes to thank all those who assisted with the development of this guide, particularly Mark Pallis, James Milner, Stacie Blake, Megan Hamilton, Pief Braun, Jameson Tweddie and William Coffin. ICAR would also like to thank Sandy Buchan, Lyn Adams and Ly Van Ung. Thanks also to the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. ICAR would also like to thank Joanne van Selm, Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC, and Penny McLean and Jon Williams formerly of the resettlement team at the Refugee Council for their comments on drafts of this guide and the helpful provision of information towards this work. We would also like to thank Rachel Thomson at the Refugee Council for the provision of information for the June 2005 update.

Last Updated: 25/02/09


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