Emerging Private Sponsorship Programmes in Europe: a new partnership between government and local communities

Concept Note and Programme



Date: 23 February 2017

Time: 15.00-17.00 CET

Webinar language: English




In Europe and elsewhere, renewed debate on enhancing access to international protection has been brought about by the millions of people affected by global protracted displacement crises. According to UNHCR, 1.2 million people worldwide are in need of resettlement in 2017. However, despite an increase in the number of resettlement programmes established in Europe, the EU contribution of EU Member States and associate countries to resettlement remains modest.


Expanding safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe in a way that is complementary to resettlement is therefore central to enhancing access to international protection and providing a durable solution for those in need. Private sponsorship of refugees can play an important role in this regard, as such initiatives provide a mechanism for tapping into additional resources which may otherwise not be utilised to support admission programmes, while also helping to ensure a more sustainable and holistic integration of refugees into their new host societies.


Over the past few decades, a small number of arrangements that can be described as private sponsorship programmes have been put in place, with Canada´s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Programme being the most prominent. The ‘Canadian model’ of private sponsorship complements Canada’s government-assisted refugee programme and, since its inception in the 1970s, it has contributed considerably to the numbers of refugees admitted to Canada. Private Sponsorship not only allows for a greater number of refugees to access protection in Canada, but also creates opportunities for the public to get intimately involved in assisting resettled refugees.


Across Europe, several concrete initiatives in the area of private sponsorship have been implemented as pilot programmes, mainly benefiting Syrian refugees. These differ significantly in terms of scope, actors involved and status afforded to beneficiaries, as well as legal framework, safeguards and responsibilities for all stakeholders involved. Countries that have thus far established ad hoc private sponsorship programmes include Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the UK, each with very different experiences.


While there is no universally-agreed definition of private sponsorship and some ambiguity persists regarding the core components such initiatives should have, certain characteristics are common to the majority of such programmes: under private sponsorship programmes, refugee admission is facilitated through formal commitments of financial, social and/or emotional support by private stakeholders. Sponsorship therefore involves more than merely financial capital. Such programmes play an important role in bringing a whole-of-society approach to the protection and integration of refugees by harnessing the support and engagement of a range of stakeholders, including individuals (often with family links to the sponsored person), community and volunteer organisations, faith-based groups, as well as charities, private companies and NGOs.


To be effective, however, private sponsorship programmes must be structured carefully, making sure that the advantages and risks inherent in the development of such programmes are adequately anticipated and managed. It is therefore important that guidelines specify the purpose and objectives of private sponsorship, while also addressing the core issues of who can sponsor and be sponsored, the responsibilities of sponsors, and the safety net in place if problems arise. Moreover, such programmes should set out how beneficiaries will be identified and selected in a responsible and non-discriminatory manner.



Objectives of the Webinar


While lessons learned from what is working in Canada, Italy and the UK may not necessarily be directly applicable to all countries, the experiences gathered from sponsors, governments and beneficiaries alike in those countries are invaluable in helping other European countries develop their own models of private sponsorship.


With the overall goal of exploring ways to further build capacity of potential new stakeholders who aim to set up similar programmes in other European countries, this webinar therefore seeks to assess the state of play of emerging private sponsorship models in Europe. Through discussion of three comparative case studies of countries currently running private sponsorship models – namely Canada, Italy and the UK – the six expert panellists will explore the main characteristics of, and issues addressed by, each respective programme, from the perspectives of both governments and sponsors.


Taking the Canadian model as an example and building on the experiences of their own countries, panellists will address key questions and challenges in the setup of such programmes. Key questions and issues to be addressed by the panellists include:


1.       The process of identification and referral, as well as legal status afforded to refugees arriving under private sponsorship

2.       The relationship between private sponsorship programmes and existing resettlement commitments

3.       Eligibility criteria for becoming a sponsor, and the responsibilities held by sponsors

4.       The nature of partnership between the government and sponsors/civil society

5.       Prospects for the long-term social and economic integration of beneficiaries; the actual or projected impact of sponsorship schemes on integration



Background to the project: European Resettlement Network+


Building on the experience that the European Resettlement Network has gathered since 2010, the ERN+ follow-up project, ERN+ “Developing Innovative European Models for the Protection of Refugees and Providing Support to New Resettlement Countries”, seeks to demonstrate the complementary nature of pathways such as private sponsorship with existing resettlement programmes and to highlight the increased need to expand the European protection landscape.


In the framework of this project, various forms of admission will be examined, including community-based private sponsorship programmes, student scholarships, as well as other programmes of humanitarian admission in a range of forms such as, for example, enhanced family reunification schemes.


Using the established structure of the European Resettlement Network to communicate and inform on such pathways of admission, the project aims to bring together national, regional and local government, international organisations, civil society, think tanks, academia and diaspora. Through a series of webinars, targeted roundtables and focused feasibility studies, the project seeks to identify possibilities for the implementation of pilot projects in selected European countries, while also further expanding the ERN community of practitioners and stakeholders. The project will build upon the experiences and the lessons learned in order to identify opportunities for the incorporation of these pathways as more permanent features of international protection in Europe.


Who can attend?

The ERN+ Webinar can facilitate attendance for up to 100 participants, and is open to participation from individuals with a specific interest in the area of refugee protection, resettlement and legal pathways of admission in Europe. Organisations and individuals with experience working on private sponsorship of refugees in a European country are particularly encouraged to participate.


How does it work?

To attend the webinar, you will need the following:

·         Access to a computer with a good internet connection (Windows or Mac computer)

·         Operating system: Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) – 10.8 (Mountain Lion), Linux / Ubuntu or Google Chrome OS (Chromebook)

·         Web Browser: Mozilla Firefox v34 or later, or Google Chrome v39 or later

·         A Skype-style headset that enables you to listen.


Ahead of the webinar, participants will be sent a link to access the online meeting. No additional software is required.



Panellists’ bios:


Donatella Candura is Vice Prefect in the International Relations Unit of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of Interior where she is responsible for the Italian resettlement program. In the field of migration, she also gained experience abroad, having been seconded to the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Immigration in Madrid, for one year. She holds a degree in law from Palermo University.


Derrick Deans is Assistant Director for Refugee Affairs within the department for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in government of Canada.  


Giulia Gori works as a project officer for the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – Refugees and Migrant Programme. She also carries out policy and advocacy work in the field of migration and asylum at national and European level. She has a legal background and a master’s degree in Theory and Practice of Human Rights at the University of Essex.


Paolo Impagliazzo is in charge of refugees programme, International Relations Office, Sant’Egidio.


Sabine Lehr is Immigrant Services Manager at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), a settlement agency in western Canada. She also manages ICA’s private sponsorship of refugees program and is an elected member of the SAH Council, the representative body of the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association.


Mark Wiggin is the CEO of Caritas Diocese of Salford, a member of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) England and Wales that is in turn a member of Caritas Europe. Caritas Diocese of Salford was one of the first voluntary organisations in the UK to take responsibility for a refugee family under the new government supported Community Sponsorship scheme and alongside the Home Office. 


Gideon Winward works for the UK civil service and has led the design and delivery of the UK's community sponsorship scheme.










Webinar Programme



Moderator: Lea von Martius, Project Officer, ICMC Europe


15.00- 15.15 Welcome & introduction to the webinar: Petra Hueck, Director, ICMC Europe


15.15 - 16.30 Expert presentations


1.       Canada

a.       Derrick Deans, Assistant Director, NHQ - Refugee Affairs, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada: The main features of the Canadian Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and its continued adaptation to meet emerging needs

b.      Sabine Lehr, Immigrant Services Manager, Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, Canada: Private sponsors under Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program: experiences, challenges and crucial success factors


2.       Italy

a.       Donatella Candura, Vice Prefect, International Relations Unit – Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of Interior: Enabling Humanitarian Corridors- the Italian government’s support to private sponsorship of refugees in Italy

b.      Paolo Impagliazzo, in charge of refugees programme, International Relations Office, Sant’Egidio: Humanitarian Corridors as a form of private sponsorship in Italy: a defining role for civil society

c.       Giulia Gori, Refugees and Migrants Service-Mediterranean Hope, Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy: Welcoming and integrating newcomers through multi-stakeholder partnerships


3.       United Kingdom

a.       Gideon Winward, Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme, UK Home Office: The UK Community Sponsorship Programme – a strong partnership between government and local communities

b.      Mark Wiggin, CEO of Caritas Diocese of Salford: The role of the voluntary sector in facilitating private sponsorship of refugees in the UK full community sponsorship model



16.30 - 17.00 Questions and discussion


Participants are invited to share their own experiences, as well as submit written questions to the experts and organisers, ahead of the webinar via email to intern.europe@icmc.net. Attendees can submit further written questions during the presentations via the GoToWebinar interface question box, and the organisers will select key questions to submit to the expert speakers during the Q&A session.

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