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 is 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 can be pledged either for relocation from Greece and Italy or for the admission of Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Eligibility for the relocation scheme is 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 so far 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 are running up to early 2018. When Member States of Relocation are ready to receive groups, a list of potential beneficiaries is shared with them which they have to approve.

Applicants cannot 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 are taken into account in order to decide which Member State beneficiaries should be relocated to.

What is IOM’s role?

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

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

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

Regarding the journey itself, IOM manages the movements, conducts a pre-departure embarkation session during which the beneficiaries are informed about the practical details of the travel, provides medical or operational escorts on the flight if necessary, supports groups in transit where needed and welcomes and receives the beneficiaries upon arrival at the airport.

Statistical Updates on Relocation

As of 31 December 2017, with only a limited number of registered beneficiaries remaining in Greece and Italy, 33,154 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 this press release (including video testimonies of beneficiaries) and in the relocation tab of IOM's Migration Flows Europe page here. 


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, this ‘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

Thousands of unaccompanied children that have arrived in Greece and Italy are eligible for relocation. Specialized IOM staff conduct best interest assessments together with national legal guardianship authorities and EU Member States of Relocation, taking into account the views and opinions of the child.

IOM ensures that unaccompanied migrant children receive child specific and child friendly information on the Member State of Relocation and supports them in view of their relocation.

Only a few Member States of Relocation have made places available for unaccompanied children and many more places are needed. As of 31 December 2017, only 368 unaccompanied or separated migrant children were relocated from Greece to Belgium (20), Croatia (2), Finland (109), France (5), Germany (24), Ireland (26), Lithuania (1), Luxembourg (27), Malta (1), the Netherlands (69), Norway (23), Portugal (9), Romania (1), Spain (36) and Switzerland (15). In addition, 97 unaccompanied or seperated minors travelled from Italy to Austria (2), Belgium (12), France (1), Germany (4), the Netherlands (70), Norway (3), and Switzerland (5).

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.