What is community sponsorship?
Community sponsorship of refugees involves everyday members of a local community coming together to form a group (‘sponsor group’) that commits to providing financial, emotional and practical settlement support to a newly arrived refugee family or individual for a set period of time (typically 12 months).
How does community sponsorship work?
The sponsor group has the primary role of helping the refugee newcomers find their feet in their new community from day one, helping with things like:
- Local orientation, including meeting refugees and the airport
- Enrolling children in school and helping them succeed in their education
- Finding suitable housing
- Navigating government and other local services
- Accessing social opportunities and emotional support
- Opening bank accounts
- Learning English
- Using public transport
- Getting a drivers’ licence
- Engaging in vocational training or tertiary education
- Finding a job or starting a business
Why should community members sponsor refugees?
The scale of the global refugee challenge continues to grow:
- resettlement opportunities are grossly inadequate to meet the number of refugees in urgent need around the world;
- rich countries are not doing enough but governments are politically constrained in how much they can do at the expense of taxpayers;
- private citizens feel compassion and want to help but often can’t find effective avenues to do so;
- refugees who are resettled can find it very challenging to find their feet in a new country, particularly in the early years.
Having an effective community sponsorship program in Australia would:
- enable private citizens, businesses and NGOs to expand Australia’s response to the global refugee challenge;
- ensure that refugees are met with a warm welcome and have the support they need to find their feet as new Australians;
- support refugees in being able to achieve their goal of becoming full contributors to Australian society;
- bring more ordinary Australians into direct contact with forced migrants within the Australian community;
- lead to greater understanding within the community and lay the groundwork for generous and compassionate policy towards forced migrants.
What are the benefits of Community Sponsorship?
Refugees can benefit from a strong personal network of people in their area to help them find their feet in a new community. Refugees can also benefit from intensive, individualised and holistic support provided by committed local volunteers. This sort of wrap-around support can address the needs of all members of the family and potentially lessen the acculturation stress and isolation that refugees may experience in their early stages of settlement.
Sponsors develop new networks and relationships by coming together to pursue a powerful shared purpose. Through sponsorship, ordinary citizens uncover and build new capacities and community connections, and often develop lifelong friendships. Many former sponsors say that sponsoring a refugee is “one of the most meaningful things they have ever done” and sponsored refugees often go on to become sponsors themselves.
For the Community and Australia:
Community sponsorship can enrich civic life, foster social cohesion as well as fostering full economic independence of humanitarian migrants in Australia. Sponsorship can also help regional communities attract and retain migrants to boost their populations and expand their workforces. It can enable sustainable settlement in regional locations lacking professional settlement infrastructure.
Sponsorship can help Australia as a country do more for refugees and lead other countries to do the same. It provides a model for expanding Australia’s refugee resettlement program by drawing on the time and resources of compassionate Australians to supplement the long-standing government-assisted resettlement program.
Facts & Figures from around the world
The Canadian government has resettled 327,000 refugees through its private sponsorship of refugees program since it was introduced in 1979
There are currently 26 million refugees around the world, with 1.4 million refugees in urgent need of resettlement in a safe country, with less than 1% of those resettled each year
Argentina, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Spain have established or are developing community refugee sponsorship schemes
In Canada, the majority of community sponsored refugees find employment within a year of arrival. Sponsored refugees are often supported to establish their own businesses and create jobs in their new communities
An estimated 2 million Canadians have been directly involved in sponsoring refugees since 2017, with a further 7 million estimated to know someone who has sponsored a refugee
Special sponsorship schemes can be used to assist particular groups like women and children at risk, LGBTI refugees, and students
Research in the UK found that sponsors were often motivated to participate in the scheme in order to find purpose in their lives
In Canada, sponsorship has enabled refugees to settle in more than 400 large and small communities, well beyond just capital cities. In the UK, about 50% of sponsored refugees have settled in non-metropolitan areas.