The EU Relocation Programme and IOM

What is the EU Relocation Programme?

Relocation is the transfer of asylum seekers who are in clear need of international protection from one EU Member State to another Member State where their asylum application will be examined once the relocation has taken place. The EU relocation scheme was an expression of the principle of solidarity that lies at the heart of the European project.

EU Member States agreed to relocate asylum seekers from Member States experiencing high migratory pressure. 66,400 places have been allocated for relocation from Greece and 39,600 from Italy. Following an amendment of the Council Decision, the remaining 54,000 places could be pledged either for relocation from Greece and Italy or for the admission of Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Eligibility for the relocation scheme was limited to applicants who are in clear need of international protection and are a national or stateless resident of those countries for which the EU-wide average recognition rate is more than 75 percent. The majority of beneficiaries were from Syria, with Eritreans and Iraqis as the second and third largest groups.

How does it work?

Eligible asylum seekers in Greece and Italy could be channeled into the relocation programme until September 2017, while movements were running up to early 2018. When Member States of Relocation were ready to receive groups, a list of potential beneficiaries was shared with them which they have to approve.

Applicants could not choose which country they are relocated to, but through a matching process basic criteria such as language skills or demonstrated family, cultural or social ties were taken into account in order to decide which Member State beneficiaries should be relocated to.

What was IOM’s role?

Once IOM received the final list with beneficiaries that have been selected for relocation and who have accepted the decision, it started implementing important pre-departure activities to ensure the beneficiaries were well informed about the process and could travel in safety and dignity.

A pre-departure health assessment and a fit-to-travel check before departure ensured that the beneficiaries’ health needs were assessed, relevant information was shared with Member State of Relocation, public health concerns were addressed and everyone could travel in safety and dignity.

IOM also provided pre-departure orientation sessions, sharing key information about the Member State of Relocation and relocation. This was a valuable opportunity to give basic information on the country they would be relocated to, manage expectations and inform the beneficiaries of initial post arrival reception and early integration assistance.

Regarding the journey itself, IOM managed the movements, conducted a pre-departure embarkation session during which the beneficiaries were informed about the practical details of the travel, provided medical or operational escorts on the flight if necessary, supported groups in transit where needed and welcomed and received the beneficiaries upon arrival at the airport.

Statistical information on Relocation

A total of 34,694 persons have benefitted from relocation. This is in stark contrast to the 106,000 places that EU member states have committed to, but with the EU-Turkey Statement reducing flows to Greece and the majority of migrants arriving in Italy not being eligible for relocation, the number of persons to be relocated turned out to be much lower. You can find more information on the scheme's progress in the attached Relocation Info Sheet, in the relocation tab of IOM's Migration Flows Europe page here, and in this press release (including video testimonies of beneficiaries). 


Proposal for a permanent relocating mechanism

In May 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a permanent relocation mechanism as part of the reform of the Dublin system. The proposal is still under review by the Council of the EU; the European Parliament has endorsed its negotiating mandate in November 2017. If adopted, the proposed ‘fairness mechanism’ would automatically establish when a country is handling a disproportionate number of asylum applications based on the country's size and wealth and all further applications for asylum in that country would be redistributed across the EU.

According to the proposal, Member States would also have the option to temporarily not take part in the reallocation and in this case would have to make a ‘solidarity contribution’ of EUR 250,000 for each applicant for whom they would have been responsible, to the Member State that receives the person.

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Specialized IOM staff conducted best interest assessments for Unaccompanied Migrant Children, together with national legal guardianship authorities and EU Member States of Relocation, taking into account the views and opinions of the child.

IOM ensured that unaccompanied migrant children received child specific and child friendly information on the Member State of Relocation and supported them in view of their relocation.

Only a few Member States of Relocation have made places available for unaccompanied children. 391 unaccompanied or separated migrant children were relocated from Greece to Belgium (20), Croatia (2), Finland (109), France (5), Germany (27), Ireland (42), Lithuania (1), Luxembourg (27), Malta (1), the Netherlands (69), Norway (23), Portugal (9), Romania (4), Spain (37) and Switzerland (15). In addition, 194 unaccompanied or seperated minors travelled from Italy to Austria (7), Belgium (24), France (1), Germany (30), the Netherlands (100), Norway (3), Spain (4), Sweden (1), and Switzerland (24).

Further information

  • IOM’s Migration Flows Europe portal has a tab on relocation, giving a graphic overview of the progress and maintaining an updated table of beneficiaries per country. You can find it here.
  • For more information on the activities carried out by IOM Greece, please refer to their homepage.
  • IOM regularly publishes press releases and articles on significant relocation movements, milestones and policy:

-  News: UN Migration Director General Calls for Continuity, Full Participation in EU Relocation Programme (26-09-2017)

-  News:IOM Welcomes Milestone as 10,000 Asylum Seekers Relocated from Greece under EU Plan (17-03-2017)

-  News: IOM Urges Swifter Pace as over 10,000 Asylum Seekers Relocate from Greece and Italy under EU plan (13-01-2017)

IOM Commentary: EU Relocation: Where Europe Needs a Surge (23-09-2016)

News: IOM Aids EU relocation of 5,000 Asylum Seekers in First Year, Urges Renewed Effort (16-09-2016)

-  News: EU Relocation of Asylum Seekers Gathers Pace as 222 are Relocated this Week (09-09-2016)

News: IOM Aids Relocation of Families, Unaccompanied Child Migrants from Greece to Finland (02-09-2016)

News: Asylum Seekers Relocate from Greece to France through EU Scheme (26-08-2016)

For further information please contact