Refugee Settlement

A convoy of buses on a dirt road
A UNHCR convoy resettles Congolese refugees to a more permanent settlement camp within Uganda. © / M.Sibiloni

Global Response

The UNHCR and international community work together creating durable solutions so that refugees and internally displaced persons can live with safety and dignity. There are three main options for refugees that the international community is able to assist with:


Most refugees desperately want to go home, and will do so voluntarily as soon as it is safe.

In 2012 approximately 532,000 refugee people were repatriated globally, according to UNHCR country statistics.

The UNHCR and other international agencies take responsibility for assisting refugee people with the process of return, and for helping them to rebuild their lives in their homelands. It is important that conditions are safe in the areas that people are returning to. A peace agreement should be in place before any return or repatriation, and armed conflict should have ceased in the areas of return.

Voluntary repatriation is the return of refugees to their home country, of their own free will, once conditions have become safe. Refugees are often asked to return voluntarily when conditions have improved in their country of origin. People must be able to have had a guarantee of protection from their government.

Returning is not an easy process. It takes time for countries to rebuild and repair infrastructure and to restore safe conditions and systems of governance.

Returnees will often require assistance for some time after their arrival. They need assurances of their social, physical and legal protection. Groups that may have been in conflict at the time of displacement also may require assistance with this transition.

Watch the story of a man repatriated from Pakistan back to his home in Afghanistan at the UNHCR.


Many refugee people are not able to access refugee camps and/ or live safely in their home country. In this situation people are forced to make a permanent home for themselves in another country where they can find safety, shelter and make a living.

Local integration occurs when refugees seek to attain rights similar to those enjoyed by the citizens of the country in which they have sought refuge. Some but not all are able to gain citizenship.

There are many challenges to local integration for both refugees and receiving communities. At times there are tensions between refugees and local communities who are often competing for scarce resources, including land and food. However where steps are taken to support both groups, some successful models of integration do exist.

Watch the video of a family from Burundi who make a home in Tanzania on the UNHCR website.

Read more about the estimated 1.1 million refugees who became citizens in their country of asylum at UNHCR » Local integration


Resettlement is the organised movement of refugees from refugee camps, urban areas or other temporary situations to a third country where they can live permanently. Resettlement in a third country may be the only way to guarantee protection of a refugee who is at risk of forcible return or who faces other serious problems in the country they have sought asylum.

Many countries assist refugees to make a new home outside of their own country. All countries that have signed and ratified the UN Refugee Convention, including Australia, are obliged to grant the same human rights and assistance to refugees that they grant to their citizens and other legal residents.

Gaining access to offshore resettlement programs in developed countries is extremely difficult or impossible for many refugees.

Watch the UNHCR clip about refugees Starting a new life in Atlanta, Georgia, 2013

Read more about the UNHCR: Resettlement programs