Community Sponsorship offers refugees the opportunity to transition from a place where they cannot flourish to a place where they can flourish and grow. The transition from a war-torn region to safety is filled with challenges and risks ranging
from exploitation by traffickers to imprisonment and even death. Community Sponsorship offers an alternative, a much needed safe and secure route to a new life, a new home and a new start.
The Community Sponsorship Scheme is an official UK Government scheme that started in 2015 in response to the refugees created by the war in Syria. It takes its name and its principles from a pioneering sponsorship scheme set up in Canada in the 1970’s that responded to the plight of the Vietnamese boat people fleeing the war in Vietnam. Its key principle is that ordinary people acting as volunteers and supported by voluntary organisations and charities can welcome, support, help house and find jobs for refugees and their families as part of a resettlement programme that they are the key actors in.
In September 2023, Community Sponsors in the UK welcomed the 1000 th refugee into the UK through this scheme. It’s a small number compared to the Governments own schemes but nevertheless this is a milestone and highlights that communities up and down the country are motivated and able to take responsibility to resettle refugee families by welcoming them into their communities, finding houses, jobs, schools and GP’s as well as many of the more important everyday services we all need.
The knowledge, experience and skills of Community Sponsorship volunteers has also proved invaluable in the shaping of other schemes such as the Homes for Ukraine scheme and the Afghan Resettlement programmes. Above all Community Sponsorship creates safe routes to safe homes in safe communities for people seeking sanctuary and who given the opportunity will flourish and give back to their host communities many, many times over.
Mark Wiggin is the UKWR Chair of Trustees and an advocate for the Community Sponsorship scheme.