We’re becoming community sponsors – you can too

26 July 2018
Ffion Wyn Evans

Yesterday Migrants Organise received the exciting news that we, in partnership with a dedicated and passionate team of volunteers known as the Welcome Committee, have been fully approved by the Home Office to become community sponsors.

Community Sponsorship is a new approach to refugee resettlement, based on a model already successful in Canada (where around 300,000 refugees have been resettled by local communities since 1979). It’s an opportunity for everyday people, volunteers, and community groups to come together to play the lead role in welcoming and supporting refugees to rebuild their lives and create long lasting bonds.

Supporting refugees

At this stage, nothing is known about the family we will be meeting at the airport. We don’t know their names, age, their professions, their hobbies, passions and dreams, or who they once were before war tore their lives apart.

We do know it’s likely they came from Syria and now live in a neighbouring country like Lebanon or Turkey.  We know their journey to the UK will be tiring as a they experience a whole range of emotions: excitement, relief, overwhelm, worry.

We too, whilst waiting at the airport, will be nervous with excitement: What if London isn’t how they expected it to be? What if they don’t like the home we found for them? What if they hate the weather? What if it’s harder than we all imagined?

Several months of planning and problem solving will come to a head in one moment of human connection.

Powered by volunteers

For our community sponsorship application, Migrants Organise took on the legal responsibility for the resettlement process, through providing policies (e.g. safeguarding, financial), volunteer training, and guidance on structure, approach and best practice. However, the real force behind this work has been powered by the Welcome Committee,  a team of unstoppable volunteers.

Abby Robinson, co-founding member of the Welcome Committee says, “Deciding to put together a community sponsorship group was easy. Given the erosion of refugee protection around the world, this was something tangible which we could do. Even though we are only assisting one family, it feels like this is the start of something that it is a building block towards more inclusive communities and an antidote to the hostile and isolating experience many refugees may experience when arriving in this country.”

“In just over a year, we have grown from what started out as a room full of strangers, into a wonderfully supportive community group full of creativity, passion and determination. The group has managed to exceed fundraising targets, has secured accommodation, pondered ethical dilemmas, learned new skills, and through learning about the journey that refugees face in London, has developed a new found understanding of the challenges that our communities face as a whole.’’

Benefits 

One of the core benefits we see with community sponsorship is how it creates a strong network of allies, friends and neighbours to support newly arrived refugees who would otherwise be marginalised and isolated – from simple things like helping the family register with the GP and navigate public transport, to being a friendly face to chat with over a coffee. It is about having a community network invested in supporting them toward independence and to break down the loneliness and isolation often experienced by newly arrived refugees.

Last year, Samir and his family were welcomed to Greater Manchester by St Monica’s Church, in Flixton. Watch their story.

You can do this too

The journey for community sponsors begins several months before the family arrives and includes:

  • Forming a strong team of dedicated volunteers
  • Registering as a legal structure or partnering with a charity (who will act as lead sponsor, taking on legal responsibility)
  • Raising at least £9000
  • Finding appropriate accommodation for 2 years
  • Getting the approval of the local authority and establishing connections to local service providers, schools, job centres, etc
  • Writing a safeguarding policy and resettlement plan

Whilst the list may seem daunting we are happy to share our experience and knowledge to help you. Sponsor Refugees and Reset have also created useful resources. See the full Home Office criteria and application here.

Get started! Speak to Migrants Organise

To find out more about our approach to community sponsorship as well as other ways you can volunteer to support migrants and refugees, contact ffion@migrantsorganise.org.

Thank you to Sponsor Refugees and the inspiring, pioneering community sponsorship groups that have led the way and guided us with our application.

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