Our esteemed judges were hosted at the House of Commons by Helen Hayes MP, to decide the shortlist and winners of the Community Sponsorship Awards 2019. They certainly had a difficult job to do, as we received hundreds of nominations from across the UK. Thanks to all who took the time to nominate your CS heroines and heroes.
Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, head of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency's UK office, said, "We had a very large number of excellent nominations. Very, very difficult job in deciding on winners. I think we had essentially just a very long list of winners".
Meet our Shortlisted NomineesRead more
The last few months has been another busy one for the Community Sponsorship movement, with plenty of new groups starting up, applications going in and – most importantly – refugee families being welcomed.
Up in Scotland, the first Community Sponsorship Group north of the border, Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh welcomed a Syrian family of six in May. Meanwhile, the first Community Sponsorship Group in Northern Ireland, Small World in Whitehead, has received full approval from the Home Office and will welcome a family in early September. As ever, there has been lots of activity in Wales with the first group in the North of Wales, Croeso Menai, based in Anglesey close to putting in their application after a busy few months of events.
Great news in Liverpool, with the first Community Sponsorship group in the city, welcoming their family in early June. Old Swan Welcomes was established February 2018 and is led by Sam Tomlin and the Salvation Army Stoneycroft Church. It is a hugely diverse group involving members of the Syrian diaspora, other Arabic speakers, as well as Scousers, and new comers. The group has members from most Christian denominations, both Western and Eastern (Coptic and Eastern Rite Catholic) as well as Muslims, Jewish volunteers from the local Reform Synagogue, and members who are active humanists.Read more
Fundraising for refugees has taken off in Merton with students hoping to become the first group of state schools to take part in the government scheme community sponsorship.
St Mark’s Church of England Academy in Mitcham Eastfields has teamed up with Merton Citizens, Wimbledon College and Rutlish School to raise £9,000 needed to welcome a refugee family from an area of conflict into their community.
Head of the English as an Additional Language department at St Mark’s Nina Ahmad said: “To fundraise for someone who lives elsewhere is one thing, but to actually see the family, and for that family to then hopefully become involved in the school is quite powerful.”
St Mark’s suggested the scheme to other schools and is leading fundraising events, having raised over £1,000 through a multi-cultural evening alone with a crowd of 150 parents.
Between January 2017 and January 2019, a team of researchers from IRiS at University of Birmingham conducted 112 interviews with refugees, CS volunteers and thought leaders. Their evaluation uncovers both the long-lasting positive impact of the scheme, and the challenges faced by groups and resettled families.
You can read their full report here.
Executive Summaries and practical tips from their research are available here.
Professor Reyes Soto has reflected on her time meeting Community Sponsorship "super volunteers" here.
And, Professor Phillmore has written a blog about their research here.
Abstract from "Virtuous circle: rescued refugee seeks to save others"
It was the kindness of strangers that propelled single mother Dalya to a new life in London - now the Iraqi refugee wants to help sponsor a fleeing family of her own.
Dalya knows how alien it feels to land in a distant country, knowing nobody, and reckons one good turn deserves another.
"I want to help because I lived a horrible and hard life. I know what it feels like when people first arrive here. If they need a friend, I can be a friend. I can help with anything," the 34-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Citizens UK has joined forces with NASUWT to recognise the important role that schools play in refugees integrate into the local community and in helping the community to welcome refugees.
Schools are crucial places of welcome, orientation and integration for refugee families, and also play a central role in the growing number of Community Sponsorship schemes around the country.
Refugee Welcome Schools is an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK. The scheme is run by Citizens UK in partnership with the NASUWT.
Meet the 2019 Community Sponsorship Awards judges which include leading figures in the Refugee, Migrants and humanitarian sector, academia, businesses and the UK parliament.
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
Sponsor Refugees held a Parliamentary Event during Refugee Week 2019, hosted by Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood. The event was organised and run entirely by refugees. The event came a day after the government announced that the refugee resettlement scheme would be extended beyond 2020, and that all families who are welcomed through Community Sponsorship would be in addition to government resettled refugees.
The event was a brilliant way to celebrate the news, and the success of the Community Sponsorship scheme to date. However, newcomers also highlighted the challenges they face as refugees and asylum seekers to the UK.
The theme of Refugee Week was "You, Me, and Those Who Came Before", and we heard testimony from people across the generations - including Mouteb, just 13 years old!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