How can cities and smaller municipalities actively engage in sponsorship programmes? How can they promote and support resettlement and complementary pathways in which refugees are supported by volunteer groups to integrate into the local community? These questions were discussed on March 30th 2021 during an online event co-organised by the French National Association of Welcoming Cities and Territories (ANVITA) and the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) in collaboration with the Féderation de l'Entraide Protestante (FEP) , the Global Refugee Sponsorships Initiative (GRSI) and the SHARE Network.
Download the information leaflet here.
The event formed part of ANVITA’s wider work on solidarity in migration and asylum. The agenda aimed to familiarise network members with global resettlement needs and the role of expanded complementary pathways, presented by UNHCR France, in contributing to global refugee protection. It also explored how ANVITA members can support humanitarian corridor and community sponsorship programmes implemented by FEP on the ground. The meeting wasattended by city representatives from Nantes, Bordeaux, Clairmont Ferrand, Strasbourg and Montpellier.
Interested in community sponsorship? Read more about the SHARE QSN Project!
Founded in 2018 by Damien Carême (MEP and previous mayor of Grande Synthe) ANVITA is a vibrant and engaged French solidarity network that gathers together 34 municipalities, 3 regions, 2 departements and 4 “métropoles” (including Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux). ANVITA also includes 30 individuals working and advocating for dignified reception and better participation of local and regional authorities in national policymaking.
A tool for citizen participation and public awareness, community sponsorship has the potential to innovate and expand welcome and integration, benefiting both refugees and receiving local communities. The SHARE Network and its partners in France, the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) and the Fédération de l'Entraide Protestante (FEP) – all speakers at the event organised by ANVITA - are strong advocates for community sponsorship, and work together to broaden sponsorship engagement and awareness among stakeholders from regions and municipalities, the business community and universities and its growth at the national and European level.
City solidarity networks are becoming increasingly active in supporting refugee welcome. For example the Alliance “Cities of Safe Harbours”, a coalition of 13 cities in Germany, has built a strong partnership committed to receiving and hosting refugees relocated from Greece.
Both ‘internal’ solidarity within the EU with frontline Member States such as Greece (via relocation), and ‘external’ solidarity with refugee hosting countries such as Lebanon (in the context of resettlement and complementary pathways), are urgently needed. Unfortunately the EU Pact –and the proposed Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management (hereinafter RAMM) do not offer real solutions. In our view solidarity and responsibility sharing will require systematic use of relocation, consideration of people’s preferences and aspirations, and serious investment in reception conditions and early integration measures. Click here to read the Christian Group Position Papers here, which were produced a coalition of nine Christian organisations, including ICMC Europe.
While community sponsorships provide an opportunity to expand the number of refugees arriving into Europe in a safe and legal manner, the concept is as yet relatively unknown within the EU.
“An EU-wide city-based initiative to support more resettlement and other legal avenues for refugees, such as community sponsorship, has yet to be launched”, said Petra Hueck, ICMC Europe Director, at the event.
“Cities can engage in many ways, and we must find tailor-made solutions to develop these partnerships on the ground. There are examples - the French municipality of Montesson provided housing costs for two families, for example, as their contribution to the funds raised by local volunteer groups that enabled them to sponsor a Syrian family to arrive from Lebanon”. Noting that that volunteer support often ends within two years after arrival, Hueck remarked “Cities have a vital role to play - in ensuring access to health services, education and employment, and long-term participation in all aspects of community life”.
For a further example of how cities and smaller municipalities can significantly contribute to enhancing and supporting local citizen sponsorship initiatives, see the Nantes’ platform of citizen initiatives.
The participation of regions and local authorities in community sponsorship can help to broaden the volunteer base in terms of age groups, constituencies, and the skills and social/professional networks they can bring to supporting integration. This is the case in Spain, where the Basque Country has taken a leading role in promoting community sponsorship. When considering engaging in community sponsorship, local volunteer groups should as first step contact the municipality to establish links and determine the contributions and support local public authorities can offer.
By opening a discussion on the role of cities and municipalities in community sponsorship for refugee protection, the ANVITA event set the ground for future collaboration and concrete sponsorship initiatives. The SHARE Network will follow up on next steps - so stay tuned!