At the WGR, representatives from government institutions, NGOs, international organisations and refugee organisations exchange ideas, good practices and information. Next to preparing the ATCR, which will be held at the end of June, the WGR addresses a variety of current issues. This year, the focus will be predominantly on how to continue pursuing resettlement activities even at times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Another topic will be how to build on the Three-Year Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways (2019-2021). This three-year strategy grew out of the Global Compact on Refugees adopted in 2018 by the UN General Assembly. Its goal is to increase the number of participating States and the allotment of available resettlement quotas and to expand the range of complementary pathways for refugees.
The WGR will last until 2 March 2021. The Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) was actively involved in preparing the program of the WGR. The SRC organised meetings with representatives of various international NGOs and will represent their concerns during the WGR and the ATCR. It also had a part in selecting the speakers and moderators to ensure that refugees, in particular, had an adequately strong voice. The SRC has the lead on the third day of the WGR. SRC Director Miriam Behrens also gave the following opening remarks on today's opening day.
Safe pathways for refugees have been one of the focuses of SRC activities this year. In a new position paper (in French and in German), the SRC explains the particular importance of resettlement and complementary pathways to achieve internationally coordinated refugee protection based on solidarity. It also urges that Switzerland strengthen its commitment to resettlement. The resettlement quotas should be increased substantially and the programmes should be expanded geographically, by providing for an increase in the reception of refugee groups from the danger zones along the refugee routes. In addition, the Swiss resettlement programmes should be linked to concrete needs for protection in crisis regions and the most vulnerable refugee groups should be prioritised. Moreover, the SRC recommends that further safe pathways be permanently expanded, e.g. by facilitating family reunifications and by issuing humanitarian visas.
Following the WGR, the SRC will organise various other meetings with NGOs. Together with them, it will define the desired agenda items for the ATCR and discuss the formation of thematic working groups. Concurrently, the SRC wants to communicate on a regular basis with civil society actors and NGOs in Switzerland that are actively involved in the integration of resettled refugees. The objective is to benefit from their experiences and to bring those experiences to the fore at the ATCR. The ATCR is scheduled to be held on 28 and 29 June 2021.
Since 1995, the ATCR has brought government representatives together with representatives of NGOs and international actors under the patronage of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The ATCR Conference promotes the exchange of ideas and information about resettlement and, for several years now, about complementary pathways and tries to advance common approaches and goals. The meeting takes place annually in Geneva, Switzerland.