Goal 2: Advance Complementary Pathways and Family Reunification

Improve Access and Develop Opportunities

Goal 2: Advance Complementary Pathways and Family Reunification

Improve Access and Develop Opportunities

Muhammad, 21, spent several years in Jordan, having fled the war in Syria. Awarded a scholarship by a regional government in southern France, he will soon begin studying at the University Paul Valery in Montpellier.

The Global Compact on Refugees emphasizes the need to make complementary pathways for admission available to refugees on a more systematic basis. While resettlement is an important tool to meet the protection needs of refugees at heightened risk, complementary pathways can expand third country solutions, ease pressure on host countries and enhance refugees’ self-reliance by building their capacities to attain a durable solution. Goal 2 focuses on increased refugee access to existing complementary pathways, to build a robust evidence base and ensure coordinated systems design involving all relevant partners.

Complementary pathways are safe and regulated avenues for refugees that complement resettlement by providing lawful stay in a third country where their international protection needs are met. Complementary Pathways for Admission are additional to resettlement.

They include:

Humanitarian pathways which are programmes designed to admit individuals in need of international protection to a third country. Admitted individuals are sometimes provided the opportunity to apply for asylum after arrival, including through expedited procedures and humanitarian visas. In other instances, programmes may provide a protection status upon arrival.




Education pathways which are private, community, state or institution-based scholarships, traineeships, and apprenticeship programmes that provide for refugees’ access to third countries through studentship programmes.

Three refugee athletes gain sports scholarships to Canada



Employment pathways are job opportunities and labour immigration programmes that provide safe and regulated avenues to third countries and sustainable employment with a possibility to achieve a durable legal status.


Sponsorship pathways (or “named sponsorship”) allow individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations to directly engage in refugee admission efforts, by identifying, selecting and supporting the entry and stay of named individuals, not referred by UNHCR. Sponsors are subsequently also supporting refugees in their reception and integration in the third country.



In addition to complementary pathways, family reunification procedures offer another legal admission pathway for refugees.  Family reunification legal frameworks and specific support programmes allow refugees to reunite with their dependent family members, and derive from their right to family unity.

Eritrean minors reunited with mother after eight-year odyssey

Donated airmiles help Eritrean father reunite with his daughters

How to contribute?

In line with the multi-stakeholder and whole-of-society approach required to achieve the goals of the Strategy, the following are non-exhaustive examples of the types of contributions that different stakeholders can make to support Goal 2.

Governments in receiving countries

-Open up existing or establish new protection sensitive family reunification, employment or education pathways for refugees, including through removing legal, administrative, and physical barriers limiting refugee access.

-Monitor and evaluate programmes and improve data collection systems on the availability and use of complementary pathways.

Governments in host countries

- Facilitate refugee access to complementary pathways by addressing the barriers they face, such as through the provision of exit permits or internationally recognized travel documents.

Inter-governmental regional organizations

- Support and improve data collection systems on the availability and use of complementary pathways.

Civil society at the international, regional, national and local levels (including NGOs, faith-based organisations, refugees in receiving countries, diaspora and citizens)

- Advocate with local and national authorities for the establishment and expansion of complementary pathways programmes through demonstrating their benefits.

The private sector at all levels (including employers and employers’ organisations and private foundations)

- Provide in-kind support system building for complementary pathways, such as through support with housing, healthcare, employment, professional training and use of technological resources, as applicable.

- Build and communicate the business case for hiring refugees and the diversity advantage to other employers, decision makers and the public.

Academic and research institutions

- Build institutional research capacity to evidence the impacts of complementary pathways and refugee contributions to receiving societies.

- Generate, translate and disseminate evidence to inform policies and programmes and support practitioners.

For more details on how different actors can support the advancement of complementary pathways and family reunification, see the pledging guidance.