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UNHCR welcomes introduction of new Community Sponsorship Programme

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UNHCR welcomes introduction of new Community Sponsorship Programme

6 March 2019

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is pleased to welcome the introduction of a Community Sponsorship Programme in Ireland. The programme, which will give communities the opportunity to provide sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution, will strengthen Ireland's response to the global refugee crisis.

"The new Irish community sponsorship programme presents a unique opportunity to assist refugees to become full and active members of Irish society" said Enda O'Neill, Head of Office, UNHCR Ireland. "It will allow community groups to support people upon arrival in Ireland and help them develop language skills, access and navigate public services and learn about Ireland, its history and culture."

UNHCR estimates there are 1.4 million refugees around the world in critical need of resettlement. The addition of community sponsorship programs, alongside existing government-assisted ones, has the potential to significantly increase resettlement places for vulnerable refugees. Community sponsorship plays an important role in facilitating the integration of newly arrived refugees thanks to the support and engagement of individuals, community organizations, faith-based groups, NGOs, private companies and resettled refugee families. 

UNHCR, as a member of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI), has been working since 2017 to promote and develop community sponsorship in a number of countries including Ireland. Unlike traditional refugee resettlement models, where the state provides settlement and integration services directly to refugees, groups of private citizens become the face of welcome for people arriving to their country. Sponsors commit to providing financial, emotional and settlement support to help newcomers as they settle into their new communities.

The first family arrived on a pilot programme in Co. Meath in December 2018. As other towns and communities prepare their own plans to welcome refugees, it is expected that up to 50 people will arrive on community sponsorship programmes by September 2019.

"The evidence from other countries is that community sponsorship programmes offer a powerful way to strengthen communities, increase understanding of refugee issues, and reshape the narrative through the direct, personal connections it engenders. Sponsors typically develop meaningful and lasting relationships with the people they sponsor and become powerful refugee advocates in their own right."

For more information on how your community can sponsor refugees, please see: