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Canada, UNHCR and Open Society Foundations seek to increase refugee resettlement through private sponsorship

Press releases

Canada, UNHCR and Open Society Foundations seek to increase refugee resettlement through private sponsorship

19 September 2016

UNITED NATIONS/NEW YORK CITY, September 19, 2016 – The Government of Canada, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Open Society Foundations have agreed to launch a joint initiative aimed at increasing private sponsorship of refugees around the world. Research demonstrates that privately sponsored refugees tend to have relatively early, positive integration and settlement outcomes, thanks in part to the social support provided by sponsors.

Coinciding with the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in New York City, the new joint initiative has three primary objectives:

  1. Contribute to enhanced responsibility-sharing by expanding the use of private sponsorship as a pathway for refugees in need of protection and solutions;
  2. Encourage the expansion of resettlement by building the capacity of states, civil society actors, and private citizens to launch private sponsorship programs; and
  3. Provide a vehicle that mobilizes citizens in direct support of refugees and encourages a broader political debate that is supportive of refugee protection.

The Canadian government has facilitated the resettlement of more than 275,000 privately sponsored refugees since introducing its program in the late 1970s. Thousands of individuals, groups, and organizations have taken responsibility for supporting and helping to integrate refugees during this period, including many who participated in Canada’s recent Syrian resettlement program. (Please see attached backgrounder for more details on the Canadian private sponsorship program.)

The new joint initiative will support two initial activities. First, it will create a series of training modules on private sponsorship, based principally on a careful analysis of the Canadian model and made available to other countries who are interested in private sponsorship.

Second, it will build the capacity necessary to disseminate the training modules and offer tailored advice on how to adapt and implement private sponsorship programs.

This project will complement other initiatives under development elsewhere in the world also aimed at mobilizing citizens and creating complementary pathways for admission of refugees.

The joint initiative will commence its activities at an initial meeting of stakeholders in Ottawa, Canada, in December 2016.


“Canada is committed to working to help facilitate a stronger global response to the ongoing refugee and migration crises. We have seen first-hand how many Canadian citizens have come forward to sponsor refugees from around the world, and we want to encourage and support other states to engage their citizens to do the same.” –John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

"There are millions of people across the world who want to do more to help welcome refugees. Private sponsorship is a proven way to engage individuals, community groups, and companies to directly contribute to refugee protection, and I hope others will also be interested in supporting this new joint initiative’s objectives.” –George Soros, Founder and Chairman, Open Society Foundations

"In the face of record levels of displacement and soaring resettlement needs, UNHCR has been calling for a massive expansion in opportunities for refugees to find protection in third countries. This joint initiative is an excellent way for resettlement States to learn from Canada's very successful model of private sponsorship. It also provides an avenue for civil society and local communities to actively contribute to refugee protection." –Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Media Contacts:

Camielle Edwards
Minister’s Office
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Ottawa: +1 613-954-1064

Communications Branch
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
[email protected]
Ottawa: +1 613-952-1650

Rebecca Beyer
Open Society Foundations
[email protected]
New York: +1 212-548 0378

Ariane Rummery
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
[email protected]
Geneva +41 79 200 7617

Gisèle Nyembwe
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
[email protected]
Ottawa: +1 613-232-0909 ext.225
Cellular: +1 613-986-4300