Ongoing and concluded PhDs

PhD researcher or student information

Janine Prantl

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Discipline: Law

Degrees BA: BA



PhD Research Information

Refugee resettlement in the European Union
Lessons to be learned from a comparative analysis with the United States

Brief description:

"Resettlement involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State which has agreed to admit them – as refugees – with permanent residence status."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes resettlement as durable solution. Nevertheless, a lack of attention led to undermined potential. In fact, resettlement serves various functions. Complemented by territorial asylum, resettlement forms part of a comprehensive protection system. It remains indispensable as tool to protect refugees whose fundamental human rights are at risk in the country of refuge.
Yet, plenty obstacles to the efficient use of resettlement remain. The absence of binding quota entails unbalanced state commitment. Furthermore, unequal treatment of countries of first refuge appears when commitment is linked with foreign and security policy goals and economic considerations. Moreover, states apply diverging criteria in the selection process. Discrimination may also occur in the reception country during the integration process and (finally) when it comes to questions of naturalization.
The so-called "resettlement gap" reflects unfulfilled potential. The number of persons determined to be in need of resettlement is higher than the number of places offered. Member States of the European Union (EUMS) are considered the major sticking point for achieving a significant increase in resettlement capacity.
EUMS' responses are diverse. The current challenge centers around the creation and adoption of a uniform resettlement framework based on solidarity and responsibility-sharing. Past efforts took place without (legally) binding European Union (EU) resettlement priorities and/or quota. Remarkably, in July 2016, the European Commission proposed a permanent framework with a unified procedure – by means of a regulation.
The commitments that states are willing to accept represent a key message to the world. This message, in turn, influences refugees' understanding of what is awaiting them at their final destination as well as first asylum countries' willingness to open their borders. Successful resettlement programs not only protect those who participate in them but also persuade first asylum countries to (keep) their borders open for refugees. When deciding upon the resettlement of probably hundreds of thousands of people the EU would therefore be well advised to consider international legal protection standards, along with 'best practice' and 'bad precedent'.
Taking account of the United States (US) refugee resettlement experience is promising to reveal 'lessons to be learned'. Since the aftermath of the Second World War, the US has resettled more refugees than any other country in the world. However, along with 9/11, the US' willingness to resettle has decreased. More recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium have compounded security concerns not only in Europe but also in the US. Individual American states called for a right to oppose admission, which contradicts the US exclusive competence approach. This indicates a careful assessment of whether and how centralizing resettlement at the EU-level could in fact address the problems 'better'.


Legal issues occurring in the different stages of the resettlement process are identified by means of comparative analysis with the US. The comparison carries out to what extent US resettlement may provide guidance as a role model for the EU. International , European, US legal frameworks for refugee protection and soft law are considered. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) serves as starting and reference point; the legal frameworks are used in a complementary way. The US legal framework and resettlement practice is analyzed in terms of implementation and effectiveness of the Refugee Convention. In the following, potential points of friction are identified, also with European Asylum and Human Rights Law. Moreover, questions of responsibility are examined to point out consequences of non-compliance with the outlined legal frameworks and protection standards. The Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts , Draft Articles on Responsibility of International Organizations as well as case law are therefore consulted.

Keywords: 1951 convention, Resettlement, usa

Language(s) of writing: English

Country: Austria

Home University:

University of Innsbruck


Department of European and Public International Law

Supervisor: Andreas Müller
Start date: 01-03-2019
PhD current status: PhD Ongoing
PhD research funded by:
Name of grant:
Added to catalogue on: 26-06-2019

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