A New Model for Refugee Resettlement Puts People First, and Gathers Support

In the United States, the children of undocumented migrants are taken from their parents. In Italy, the government is turning away boats that have saved migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean. In Germany, Angela Merkel has been pressured by immigration hardliners to limit access to asylum.

These days, it is hard to find good news about refugees and asylum seekers being afforded protection and support by governments. So it is particularly heartening to see a group of governments take a stand for something far more positive—committing themselves to support an approach to refugee resettlement whose strength lies not with the state, but with ordinary people.

On Monday, July 16, ministers responsible for immigration from Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Ireland, and New Zealand issued a statement fully endorsing the concept of community-based refugee sponsorship—a model, initially developed in Canada, which places newly arrived refugee families with networks of community sponsors who take the lead in integrating the arrivals into their new communities.

In their statement, the six ministers declared their commitment to “piloting or implementing community-based refugee sponsorship programs as part of our response to the global refugee crisis.”

Canada began encouraging private sponsorship of refugees in 1979. Since then, one in every three Canadians have helped resettle almost 300,000 people—with demonstrably more successful socioeconomic outcomes than traditional schemes where the state or local authorities try to take a lead role. Canada has shown that, over time, sponsorship develops a deeply engaged and long-lasting constituency sympathetic to newcomers and diversity, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. Critically, sponsorship also is immensely rewarding to the sponsors themselves and helps build stronger communities.

In their joint statement, the six ministers noted that “in countries that have already launched these programs, we are seeing the receiving communities themselves transformed by the experience, as powerful bonds between sponsors and refugees are established, and positive attitudes towards refugees are fostered. Sponsors frequently comment that this is the most meaningful activity they have ever been a part of.”

“We recognize,” they added, “the need to show solidarity with other refugee-hosting states, to maximize refugee integration outcomes, and to find new and innovative approaches to refugee protection.”

The idea of taking the Canadian experience to other countries led to the creation in late 2016 of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, which is jointly supported by the Open Society Foundations, the Government of Canada, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the University of Ottawa, and the Radcliffe Foundation.

Over the past year, the UK community-based sponsorship program has continued to expand, while pilot schemes have begun in Ireland, New Zealand, and Argentina. Spain is the latest country to commit itself to testing the model, with an initial pilot being developed in collaboration with the regional government of the Basque Country.

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative has helped promote the model worldwide by educating, training, and supporting government officials and civil society groups interested in developing programs in their own countries.

The joint statement in support of the community-based refugee sponsorship model comes as the international community is preparing a Global Compact on Refugees, which aims to strengthen international refugee responses by better sharing support for refugees globally, in cooperation with refugees and affected host countries.

The joint statement ends with a refreshingly positive call for other countries to “consider joining our growing cohort of countries” who are developing community-based refugee sponsorship, and a commitment to provide joint support for an approach that builds, above all, on our common humanity.

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Helping refugees is an honorable deed, however, illegal migrants coming through Canada's southern border complicates things. The Federal Government shed its responsibility of looking after these people, dumping their care onto Provincial Governments. The result, displacing sick Canadian homeless people from public shelters. Mr. Trudea's government has no right to participate in any talks until it looks after the people it already imported.

In any community scheme, dealing with the traumatization of the refugees is essential. It is not being done in most instances, unfortunately. The Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace does this kind of work, teaching people to work with one another rather than to have such work imposed from above. We ask people to look at our website https://cwwpp.org/pragmatic-empowerment-training-pet/ and to contact us.

A group called Solidarity Now, also supported by the Open Society Foundation, aims to support both needy host country nationals AND migrants, as a matter of principle, which I think is a really innovative and positive approach, given that the real issue at hand is that states are abdicating responsibility for their own citizens. The absence of state responsibility for citizens, or the weakend capacity to do so, seems to be what fuels the jealousy and anger of populists toward "line-cutter" immigrants. I think more NGO'S could adopt a similar approach with success. It does seem to be the common thread that is binding us all these days. As Mayor Khan and Mr Trudeau have been quoted as saying, cities are the future. Maybe as this article indicates the state just isn't capable. My €0,02 anyway in response to Ms Burka'so comment.

I cannot speak to the Province/Federal issue in Canada, but this "community-based approach makes a lot of sense to me. Those of us who came to the U.S. in the 1930's and 40's were frequently taken in by religious or social affiliation families. My luck was to be "adopted" by a Quaker family in New Haven, CT with a boy my age, and later by Connecticut College student who took an interest in my " Americanization." I wish there were more such opportunities today.

The Refugee Sponsorship Initiative should be piloted in the Balkans as soon as possible in order to try to integrate migrants from the Middle East. Migrants believe that they are just transiting through the Western Balkans, and that they soon will be in Germany - and this is unlikely to happen due to a number of obstacles.

I am proud to be a part of a community which has joined together to sponsor at this point three families. This is by far the best route as the newcomers are made a part of the community which not only benefits them, but also the community. We are extremely blessed. Our families are working, have learned English, are taking part in community events and are already to a point where they are providing support to displaced family members still in refugee camps. Our first family was entirely self sufficient in less than a year. Our second just arrived within the past 6 months, and our last arriving soon.
As far as the ones coming over the border, have you taken the time to get to know them, to hear their stories, to help them and to have your facts straight before you make comments?

If this initiative is a privately funded supplement to government-funded refugee settlement, then it is positive and helpful. My reservation is that governments' embrace of this could signal an intent to privatize refugee resettlement. In fact, private entities alone lack the capacity to meet the need, and if governments withhold funding, resettlement risks becoming a boutique solution available to an even tinier percentage of refugees. So, yes, of course, to a genuine private-public partnership to resettle and integrate refugees, but don't let this become an excuse for governments to shirk their responsibilities.

Canada's model is over rated these immigrants only stay a few months with these community members...they end up in one of Canada's ethnic ghettos within a short time.

I agree with the other comment on this site with all the illegals walking over the Canadian border many canadians have had enough of the illegals...who are actually economic migrants rather than refugees.

The system has been abused and justin Trudeau does not represent the interests of canadians anymore...he will be voted out in 2019...as the polls indicate. He will not call an election this year because he will lose on this issue.

I am very interested to learn more about this program for application in the United States. I received training through Lutheran Refugee Resettlement services to volunteer as a mentor for refugee families and it have been extremely rewarding. Even though there is government assistance for refugees, this does not cover helping families with all the details of readjustment. The system is even confusing to me who has lived 58 years in the US, so how can we expect newcomers to adapt without help? Due to decreased government funding, the agencies which supply this help are losing resources and it would be wonderful to supplement this way and invite more refugees to come to the US with this sponsorship.

Hello Cheri Greetings. I came over your comment and I became interested. I am a cameroonian from the English speaking region of the country which the crisis hitting us badly. Please with current situation here I want to leave and go out to U.S can I get a sponsor?

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