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Private sponsorship programmes could be ‘piece of a complex puzzle’ to develop channels for orderly admission of refugees, MPI Europe report finds

Press Release
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Private sponsorship programmes could be ‘piece of a complex puzzle’ to develop channels for orderly admission of refugees, MPI Europe report finds

BRUSSELS — As the European Union considers scaling up plans to resettle refugees directly from Turkey and other countries of first asylum to reduce pressures to travel illicitly, limit the power of criminal networks and develop more equitable responsibility-sharing among EU Member States, a new Migration Policy Institute Europe report examines how innovative approaches to resettlement could enhance outcomes and spread costs.

The report, Welcoming engagement: how private sponsorship can strengthen refugee resettlement in the European Union, examines private sponsorship programmes used by Canada, Australia and a handful of other countries as well as 15 of the 16 German länder to permit private individuals, groups, corporations and other entities to sponsor individual refugees for resettlement and accept financial responsibility for them for a period of time.

The report by Judith Kumin, a long-time UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official who served as UNHCR director for Europe and representative to the European Union, makes the case that private sponsorship programmes can serve as a safe and orderly means for refugees to reach protection. Such programmes, most notably used in Canada, also can operate in parallel to government-led resettlement efforts and thus expand the number of places available to refugees. They also could convince more EU countries to participate in refugee resettlement if there is strong public support for private sponsorship and expand capacity for countries that already do.

“Developing channels for the orderly admission of refugees needs to be at the core of new strategies to address asylum and migration challenges in the European Union,” writes Kumin, who is now an adjunct professor in the Politics and Society Programme at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. “Private sponsorship may be one piece of a complex puzzle.”

The report, which encourages the European Commission, European Asylum Support Office, EU Member States and NGOs to examine such programmes, examines a number of key questions that policymakers would have to consider. Among them: who would be eligible to sponsor refugees, what would sponsors’ responsibilities entail, who could be sponsored and how would applicants be chosen, and what entitlements and status might sponsored refugees get.

“At a time when EU and national-level policymakers are scrambling for solutions, they would do well to look at innovative programmes such as private sponsorship that can help spread the costs among different actors, thus reducing burdens on state entities,” said Elizabeth Collett, director of MPI Europe.

The report, which provides particular attention to the Canadian programme that originated the practice in the 1970s, notes that private sponsorship allows interested citizens to actively take part in the solution, rather than sitting on the sidelines. It notes such programmes are not without pitfalls, including the concern that governments could offload responsibilities for resettlement on the voluntary sector.

While there has been little research on private sponsorship programmes, North American studies have shown that privately sponsored refugees tend to become self-supporting sooner than government-assisted refugees.

The report is the latest in a joint project between MPI Europe and the International Migration Initiative of the Open Society Foundations. The project, EU Asylum: Towards 2020, aims to contribute to development of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) consistent with the European Union’s interests, values and obligations, through research on challenges and options on asylum to inform the development of evidence-based policies and laws. The project involves broad consultations with Member States, EU institutions, civil society, international organisations and academics, to draw on their expertise and seek to work towards consensus on the many key questions around responses to asylum on which perspectives differ.

The report can be read at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/welcoming-engagement-how-private-sponsorship-can-strengthen-refugee-resettlement-european.

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Migration Policy Institute Europe, which is based in Brussels, provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. For more on its work, visit www.mpieurope.org.