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Private sponsorship could prove an effective tool for engaging communities and individuals in refugee protection and resettlement, if implemented with care, MPI Europe brief finds
Press Release
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Private sponsorship could prove an effective tool for engaging communities and individuals in refugee protection and resettlement, if implemented with care, MPI Europe brief finds

BRUSSELS — In the aftermath of the 2015 and 2016 migration crisis, governments and civil-society organisations across Europe are seeking new tools to ensure refugees are able to access protection in a safe and orderly way and to improve their integration prospects. A new Migration Policy Institute Europe policy brief published today examines the role that settlement through community-based or private sponsorship schemes could play in achieving these goals.

Sponsorship initiatives offer several potential benefits. Sponsorship may grant communities a sense of ownership over the immigration and humanitarian channels that are shaping their societies. By involving community members directly in the process of welcoming refugees, sponsorship also has the potential to build stronger relationships between refugees and receiving communities, and to improve refugee integration outcomes. Finally, where sponsored refugees are admitted over and above government resettlement quotas, such schemes could provide an additional pathway to safety for refugees who would otherwise be excluded from traditional resettlement—thus helping to meet the rising need for resettlement places globally.

The policy brief, Engaging communities in refugee protection: The potential of private sponsorship in Europe, emphasises how critical it is that sponsorship initiatives be designed and implemented with local context and capacity in mind. While the Canadian private sponsorship programme is widely held up as a shining example, author Susan Fratzke notes it is far from the only model; several ad hoc and small-scale initiatives have emerged in Europe since 2013 that demonstrate elements of sponsorship and hint at the diversity of ways policymakers can partner with communities to supplement traditional settlement systems.

The brief points to three potential models for community-driven resettlement and reception, ranging from more limited community involvement during government-led processes to full sponsorship in which private groups identify refugees for resettlement and then seek government approval for their admission. Regardless of the model chosen, close cooperation between sponsors and national and local government actors will be essential.

‘Sponsorship programmes, if designed and implemented with care, have the potential to augment the effectiveness of Europe’s protection and migration management efforts’, said MPI Europe Director Elizabeth Collett. ‘For policymakers and civil-society partners alike, however, success will require flexibility, clear communication and honest evaluation’.

The brief notes that government and civil-society actors must clearly identify the chief goals they are seeking to achieve so they can determine how sponsorship could best add value. Which aims and programme models are most appropriate are likely to vary substantially not only across geographic contexts but also over the life of a particular initiative. Groups eager to embark on refugee sponsorship should be open to taking an incremental approach to new initiatives and distinguish between short- and long-term objectives. Where asylum reception and resettlement have historically been highly centralised, small-scale proofs of concept may be necessary, such as matching sponsors with refugees already in the asylum system, before implementing a full-scale sponsored resettlement programme.

This sponsorship brief is the latest in a series of MPI Europe publications examining innovative policy approaches that respond to record humanitarian needs and more effectively manage migration. Last week, MPI Europe published a report assessing the gaps in knowledge about the pathways asylum seekers use to enter Europe and the protection channels they can access. Finding data-collection inadequacies and lack of harmonisation between countries regarding definition and implementation of key humanitarian policies, the authors offered a series of recommendations to reduce gaps.

Read the sponsorship brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/engaging-communities-refugee-protection-potential-private-sponsorship-europe.

And for more of MPI Europe’s work on moving Europe beyond crisis, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/moving-europe-beyond-crisis.

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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental 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. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.