Amnesty International have shone a light on the spread of Community Sponsorship across the globe. The scheme started in Canada 40 years ago, and since 2014 has been introduced to Argentina, Ireland, Spain, and New Zealand, and of course, in the UK. There are also discussions to introduce the scheme in United States and Australia.
On this 40 year anniversary of the scheme, the Human Rights charity interviewed Rahaf, who was sponsored to resettle to North London with her husband and two children.
"I want to thank my sponsors from the bottom of my heart", she said. "They’ve done so much for us. They’ve taught us about the British way of life, the language, as well as how to get from one place to another. There are many people who still need help in Syria – the war isn’t over and it’s still not safe to return, so it’s important to continue supporting others".
John Barker, who is supporting Rahaf and her family, told the charity, "It’s so important to support people who have been forced to flee their countries. People are living in terrible conditions – the UK is a wealthy country and we should be doing far more to help. Talking to other sponsors, it’s clear that you get much more out of the scheme than [what] you put in".
Mosques in North-East London with Churches and Christian groups are working together to sponsor a Syrian refugee family who arrived this week to start their new life in the UK.
The Redbridge Community Sponsorship project – a partnership between South Woodford Mosque, Balfour Road Mosque, Ilford Methodist Church, Ilford Salvation Army, St. Thomas of Canterbury RC Church and Wanstead Quakers – was initially formed in 2017. They faced enormous challenges in finding affordable accommodation for the family, but through great perseverance have been able to find a home.Read more
After a campaign running 12 months and spanning the country Citizens UK leaders are celebrating after hearing that the Government's refugee resettlement scheme is being extended, and that Community Sponsorship will be in addition to government resettlement numbers.
Reverend Cathy Wiles, All Saints West Dulwich (member of Citizens UK) said: “This morning we proudly welcomed Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes to our church to meet with refugee families and local organisations who have helped integrate 27 refugee families to our Borough of Lambeth."
"Today’s announcement is welcome news and means thousands of families, who desperately need this lifeline, can arrive in the UK via safe and legal routes. However, this should be the first step in a longer commitment if refugee resettlement, including Community Sponsorship, is to flourish.”Read more
London, Coventry, Birmingham and Bradford named ‘most welcoming’ cities after resettling more refugees though the UK Government’s flagship ‘VPRS’ refugee scheme than anywhere else in the country. Birmingham has also been recognized coming in 5th place.
- Since the scheme launched in September 2015 a total of 15,977 refugees have been resettled in the UK via VPRS and 1,410 via VCRS. A further 281 refugees have been welcomed to the UK through local volunteer Community Sponsorship groups. The Government is on target to meet its commitment to resettle a total of 23,000 refugees by 2020.
- Bradford and Glasgow also feature in the top 5, but when it comes to refugees resettled by nation/region Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire and Dundee), Northern Ireland (County Durham, Antrim, Armagh and Lisburn) and the North East of England (Newcastle, Gateshead and County Durham) are well ahead with 11 of the top 20 towns and cities from these parts of the country. Wales is the only nation/region of the UK where every local council has participated in the resettlement programme, and its rural communities are pioneering community sponsorship in places such as Fishguard, Aberystwyth and Narberth.
More than 300 people turned up to a Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees (HHWR) meeting in May, giving a rapturous welcome to a refugee family who had finally been settled among them after two years of planning and applications.
Flown out of appalling and dangerous conditions in Lebanon, an Iraqi family arrived in December 2018 and are settling in well, making many friends in the area.
Helen Hayes MP, who spoke at the event, described it as “such a special evening” and said it had been a privilege to share their journey so far, while Anna Burton, chair of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, described the turnout as incredible.
“I’m overwhelmed at the support we’ve had from our community and honoured to be a part of it,” she said. “Thank you to everyone for coming and extra special thanks to the inspiring members of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees.”Read more
Due to the passionate work of Refugee Welcome Dagenham, the Abo-Alhawa family were welcomed to Essex in March 2019. After two months, we have the pleasure to say that this Syrian family of five is settling well into life in Dagenham. The three children are now all in local schools and are thriving. Mum and Dad are working hard with their ESOL group to bring their English up to a level where they can find work and become self-sufficient. They are quickly becoming an integral part of the community in which they live and have embraced the community as part of their warm and loving family. For this path, they are assisted by a team of 20+ volunteers recruited from right across Essex and East London who helping this family to feel them at home.
Guest blog by Gill Bonner
It is now just a week since we welcomed the Alhmaier family at Gatwick Airport and took them to their new home in Sutton. At Sutton Salvation Army Church, giving a warm welcome is what we're about. The outside of our building says 'You're Welcome' and we try to live this phrase out at every opportunity. Welcoming a new family, from a background unknown, is no different. We wanted the family to know how very, very welcome they were - to The Salvation Army, to Sutton, to the UK and it was important that all those in our church community could contribute.
On the day that our welcome banner was made, those attending our church service were invited to add their inked fingerprints to the words across the top...naturally 'YOU ARE WELCOME'. Regardless of our own backgrounds, race, situations our fingerprints symbolised the uniqueness of each one of us, uniting together as a community willing to receive and support a new family. We also asked that everyone, young and old, could draw around and cut out their hand print - a wave - to fill the banner will a visual 'hello' in a multitude of colours. Everyone was included and those who can't easily move around, or take part in the activity were helped by others. The whole church was buzzing and alive with the anticipation of being able to join together in something so significant. We couldn't all greet this new family physically at the airport, but by placing our own 'wave' on the banner we could indeed be a part of welcoming them and being present with them on the start of this very important journey.Read more
Community Sponsorship of refugees is a wonderful thing. And lots of dedicated people work incredibly hard on the scheme. That’s why we believe that it is important to celebrate and recognise individuals, groups and families at our annual Community Sponsorship Awards.
The 2018 awards event was described by our parliamentary champion, Helen Hayes MP, as a ‘moving and joyful evening’ and this year’s event, kindly hosted by the Canadian Embassy in London, promises to another night to remember.
You can now make your nominations in eight categories. It is a simple process and we are hoping that we will get lots of nominations from all over the country.Read more
As part of this year’s Refugee Week (17th to 23rd June), Helen Hayes MP is hosting an event at the House of Commons to promote Community Sponsorship of Refugees among her fellow parliamentarians.
The event will also call for resettlement of refugees to be extended beyond 2020 as part of the #ExtendtheWelcome campaign and for more refugees to receive a warm welcome in our communities. The event is led by, and all speakers will be, refugees.
Anyone connected to Community Sponsorship groups or interested in the scheme is welcome to attend.
Please register via this link. It is vital to register - non-registered guests may be refused entry by security.
And please, do write to your MP and urge them to attend this important event. You can download a template letter here.Read more
In the last couple of months there has been great progress in the growth of the Community Sponsorship across all parts of the British Isles.
A number of groups welcomed refugee families to their areas, including Corsham Sponsors Refugees which is the first Community Sponsorship Group in Wiltshire. A Syrian family arrived in this beautiful Cotswold town in mid-March and are settling in well. Not far away, the group based around Reading Greyfriars church also welcomed a family in March and several groups in the Thames Valley and Chilterns area are moving forward.
In the greater London area, families arrived and are now being supporting by Community Sponsorship groups, including in North Hackney, Dagenham and Peckham. Speaking at a local gathering, the father of the Syrian family welcomed by Peckham Sponsors Refugees used a traditional Islamic phrase to thank members of group. “You are like brothers and sisters from another mother,” he said.Read more
‘I describe the way our group works as being like the fable “stone soup”,’ Erica Brooks explains. “We all have something small that we can put into a pot and something wonderful comes out as a result.”
The “something wonderful” is Scotland’s first community sponsorship of a refugee family, who are due to arrive in Edinburgh next month directly from the Middle East – where they have fled their war-torn homeland of Syria.
Abstract from Jane Bradley, The Scotsman, Sunday 28th April
This weekend, the Scotsman on Sunday visited Edinburgh Refugees Welcome - the first Community Sponsorship group in Scotland - as they prepare to welcome a family. Read the article here
Dozens of Catholic parishes throughout the country have become involved in helping vulnerable refugees find sanctuary and rebuild their lives in the UK.
Of more than 160 groups in the UK that are involved in the government's Community Sponsorship Scheme, about a third, or 50, are Catholic parishes in England and Wales. And about a third of these parishes have already welcomed families.
Samir Hamyeh’s story should serve as an inspiration to refugees welcomed to Britain through Community Sponsorship. Samir, a Syrian, arrived with his family in Flixton, East Manchester in November 2016. The Hamyehs were only the second family to be sponsored and they were warmly welcomed by volunteers from St Monica’s Roman Catholic church.
Both in Syria and later in Lebanon, Samir had worked in the catering industry, including running and owning his own restaurants. Within a few months of arriving in the UK, he was volunteering in a kitchen that served food to homeless people and destitute asylum seekers, and he went on to find paid jobs in local restaurants across Manchester. But Samir’s dream was to open his own restaurant so that he could build a more secure future for his growing family.Read more
Written by Bekele Woyecha
I had the privilege of travelling to Tyneside on Saturday 23rd March to join the launch of Tyneside Welcomes. I thought it was a long journey on a weekend. Oh my God, it was worth it. It felt like I was among my extended family - Tyneside Welcomes. Amazing people gathered for a great cause. Folks doing something practical and worthwhile whilst enjoying themselves through the process. People of different generations gathered creating a real buzz and adding to the razzmatazz. What else can we ask from Community Sponsorship?
I at times travel both around the UK and abroad; and there is a topic I raise when I meet friends and colleagues. It is nothing but about Community Sponsorship of refugees and what it means for me. What my role is in this and my passion for this great scheme and what I would have loved to achieve years and decades from now. For me, it is all about leaving a long-lasting legacy.Read more
Guest blog by Anna Roderick
It was a boiling hot summer’s day. We’d come to Sidmouth to meet a BBC crew and we sheltered in the shade of some trees to discuss the day’s filming. The plan was to produce a 10 minute film about ABIDE, a community sponsorship group, and the Syrian refugee family it supports. We were starting with some footage of Hani, the dad, doing work experience with a local gardener. The setting, in the grounds of a manor house on cliffs above the sea, couldn’t have been more idyllic.Read more