Fostering Community Sponsorship of Refugees in Europe

Geneva, 31 October 2019 - The involvement of local communities in supporting the integration of refugees arriving through sponsorship programs is the key to the success of these programs - a finding of a new study by the International Catholic Migration Commission’s (ICMC) Europe office and Caritas Europa.

Community sponsorship programs are a legal admission pathway for refugees that complement traditional, state-driven resettlement programs and sometimes overlap with them. In a community sponsorship program, responsibilities are shared between the state, civil society organizations and local communities in order to bring people fleeing conflict or persecution safely to Europe. This type of program also provides tailor-made support for the integration of refugees within local communities.

The new publication “Fostering Community Sponsorships Across Europe” examines a number of critical questions: How can sponsorship programs create additional safe and legal admission pathways for refugees? To what extent can sponsorship programs enhance social inclusion? What are the practical arrangements and partnership frameworks needed for quality-control mechanisms which ensure the well-being of sponsored refugees?

The publication analyzes the implementation of three main approaches to community sponsorship implemented in Europe since 2013. These are:

  • Sponsorships linked to extended family reunification (Germany, Ireland, France);
  • Humanitarian Corridors” relying on humanitarian visas (Italy, France, Belgium);
  • Resettlement-based community sponsorships, which rely on referrals from the UN Refugee Agency — UNHCR (United Kingdom, German, Ireland).

Four case studies of sponsored Eritrean and Syrian families provide testimony as to how community sponsorships can transform people’s lives.

The publication shows how the involvement of local volunteers in supporting sponsored refugees has the power to yield better integration outcomes and to create more tolerant and inclusive societies, fostering a more positive view of on migration.
In addition, well-designed community sponsorship programs can help implement the Global Compact on Refugees by increasing the admission channels open to refugees.

Recommendations are put forward for the design of future community sponsorship programs. They include ensuring enhanced transparency, coordination and adequate support of civil society and local and regional actors implementing these programs.

This publication was produced in the framework of the ICMC-led SHARE Integration Network in cooperation with the Community Sponsorship Working Group, which includes Caritas Europa, ICMC Europe, Consorzio Communitas/Caritas Italiana, Caritas Salford, Caritas International (Caritas Belgium) and Secours Catholique Caritas France (SCCF).