Irish Government announce community sponsorship programme

The Irish government has announced that it is to develop a community sponsorship programme for refugees. The new commitment was made at the annual Concordia Summit in New York on the anniversary of the New York Declaration which was adopted at the UN’s high-level summit on refugees and migrants in September 2016 which Ireland was co-chaired by Ireland.

The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition represents 23 civil society organisations that work on refugee and migration issues in Ireland and abroad. They have welcomed the announcement which will allow the active participation of communities across Ireland in the support and resettlement of refugees.

Community Sponsorship is a model for refugee resettlement which was developed in Canada in the late 1970s which invites local communities to come together to support the effective resettlement of refugees. It has been enormously successful in Canada and a number of countries are beginning to develop their own programmes. The UK and Argentina have recently launched programmes and yesterday Ireland and New Zealand announced that they are in the process of developing their own initiatives.

The Coalition explains:

Community sponsorship refugee programmes enable communities to play an active role in welcoming refugees by providing some forms of in-kind support as well as social and/or emotional support to refugees in the local community. Such initiatives not only provide a real future for the refugees themselves but also have proven to bring communities closer together.

The first anniversary of the UK’s community sponsorship scheme was marked in July with an injection of £1m additional funding to support groups seeking to participate.

Caoimhe Sheridan is coordinator of the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition. She describes the announcement as “a momentous commitment from the Irish government” which “will bring peace to turbulent lives and allow refugee families and children to live and grow up in safety, in welcoming and peaceful communities across Ireland”.

“It is a credit to Coalition member organisations as well as the many groups and individuals across the country that have worked tirelessly to ensure Ireland plays its part in the ongoing global humanitarian crisis.”

Amnesty International Ireland’s Colm O’Gorman visited Canada earlier this year and saw their community sponsorship programme in action.

“It was a hugely inspiring experience. I saw communities coming together with a fantastic sense of purpose to support refugees as they settled into their new lives. It is a programme which delivers really positive outcomes for refugees, but which also strengthens, deepens and enriches host communities.”

O’Gorman added:

“Given the outpouring of support for refugees in Ireland, with people from all around the country pledging solidarity with those fleeing persecution and conflict, I am confident that this programme will be hugely successful … Ireland is a welcoming country; a programme like this will help to ensure that people across the country are able to extend a welcome to those who desperately need our support.”