Resettlement Struggles with UNHCR

Asha*, a refugee for over 30 years, shares his experiences with UNHCR operations across Africa, including Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. As of 2024, he and his family have resettled in Australia. 

The UNHCR is globally recognised as the key organisation that aids refugees and decides who is eligible for resettlement in third countries. Refugees’ futures are largely at the mercy of the UNHCR.

Resettlement is crucial for refugees who cannot safely return home or integrate locally due to severe risks. It serves as a vital lifeline for the most vulnerable. Asha, reflecting on his experience as a displaced father, writes:

“Resettlement is the only hope for displaced individuals and their children. It is the only safe and sustainable long-term solution for families who have fled due to discrimination. 

Unfortunately, the UNHCR process for refugee resettlement is often fraught with abuse, corruption, and bribes that impact their futures.” 

He explains that UNHCR officials are involved at every stage of seeking asylum and Refugee Status Determination (RSD). To avoid long queues at UNHCR offices, refugees often pay between $100 – $500 AUD, which ends up in the hands of UNHCR workers who control the waiting lists. This transactional process is risk to denounce due to fears of retribution, such as being pushed to the bottom of the list.


The UNHCR Khartoum Under Investigation

In 2018, the UNHCR resettlement program in Khartoum, Sudan, was suspended due to fraud allegations. Refugees were too fearful to provide full details to investigators due to the lack of protection for witnesses and close ties between some local UNHCR stagg and Sudanese security officials. Since the investigation began, many refugees have faced intimidation, harassment, and abuse by Sudanese UNHCR staff. They reported receiving threats to close their resettlement cases or lose access to aid if they testified about the corruption.

Asha told Philoi, “UNHCR employees and host government officials hold power over refugees’ lives, deciding their future after they are forced to leave their home countries.”

To read about Philoi’s case study on corruption within UNHCR and UNHCR-designated bodies in Pakistan, click here.

Currently, around 1% of the world’s population lives in displacement, a number that continues to grow rapidly. According to the Projected Global Resettlement Needs Assessment for 2024, over 2.4 million refugees will need resettlement. In 2022, only 58,457 refugees were resettled through UNHCR. At this rate, it will take over 40 years to resettle all prioritised refugees.

The proposed Australian Government discussion paper on the Humanitarian Intake for 2024-2025, which aims to prioritise refugee resettlement recommendations through the UNHCR, is deeply concerning. This policy will adversely affect vulnerable refugees who cannot access or influence the UNHCR recommendation pathways. Additionally, it is important to recognise that some of the most vulnerable groups have never registered with the UNHCR due to past experiences of discrimination and persecution.

It is essential for the most vulnerable to have direct access to resettling countries. Their only option should not be the difficult and corrupted mechanisms set by the UNHCR. Countries accepting refugees for resettlement should do so based on the applicant’s merit and their relationship with the resettlement countries, not through bribes or UN agency preferences. Without changes, the displaced population will continue rise, leaving millions in limbo without hope for sustainable solutions.

*Name changed for security reasons.

Ongoing Need for Support

We ask for your continued support and prayer during this time so that we may continue to work with those in need. Financial support for our work has been significantly affected, which will impact our ability to respond in the 2024-2025 financial year. Despite our limited resources, we feel blessed to assist those suffering from persecution, and we greatly appreciate your support and prayers.

As the end of the financial year approaches, we invite you to consider a financial donation; any donation of $2 or more to Philoi before the end of the financial year is tax-deductible. By donating to Philoi, you are helping to change the lives of persecuted minorities by providing them with relief, relocation, and resettlement services. Please remember that donations must be made by June 30 2024 to be eligible for current financial year tax deductibility.


$75 can provide a refugee family with emergency food rations, covering their basic needs.

$50 can fund a month’s worth of school fees or supply a school pack for a refugee child.

$150 can assist a refugee family with rent or cover medical expenses.

$9,000 can support a refugee family’s resettlement application or cover flights to a safer location in their home country.

Reach out to us for more information or any questions you may have. To give, click here.