Community sponsorship programmes for refugees: working with volunteers for refugees’ resettlement

26/06/2020

The global number of displaced persons keeps rising. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has identified more than 1.44 million refugees in need of resettlement in 2020. However, current national pledges will serve fewer than 1% of these refugees. Against this background, community sponsorship programmes are met with increased interest.
 
These programmes allow citizen groups to directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts and enable cities to work in close partnership with communities’ volunteers in resettling refugees. Cities can provide support to the community and sponsored refugees from arrival to settlement and integration and have an important stake in including refugees in society.
 
Bristol, our VALUES partner, is one of the cities engaged in such programmes, since 2017. Working together with the UK Home Office, local communities and volunteers, the city Council has a crucial role in the implementation of the sponsorship programmes. This role can range from raising awareness amongst volunteers’ associations, to coordinating and monitoring sponsorship groups and supporting the groups in their sponsorship application to the national level. When it comes to the practical side of things, local authorities also become involved with finding adequate housing, providing support and advice to the groups throughout the process and building long-term relationships with and between the communities.
 
Bristol City Council works with two community sponsor groups that already welcomed a family to the UK, Westbury Welcome and Clifton Diocese, and one group, Cotham and Redland, that is now being assessed to become one sponsor group. These groups empower local citizens to play a leading role in welcoming and integrating refugees. The community volunteers take on different responsibilities such as finding and furnishing a house, securing necessary goods, helping refugees access local services (like health care system or signing up for schools), but also offering friendship and moral support.
 
Interested in knowing more about community sponsorship programmes, how they work in practice and the funding opportunities available? Looking to strengthen your links with local volunteers and communities in your city? You can find online the recording of a webinar organised by EUROCITIES and the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI), discussing how citiescould become more involved in community sponsorship programmes.
 
For more information, specific questions, and support for setting up a sponsorship programme in your city, you can contact the GRSI directly (Giulio di Blasi, Europe Director, giulio.diblasi@refugeehub.ca).