Refugee support agency Settlement Services International (SSI) commends the Federal Government for the roll out of its national ‘community sponsorship’ program.
The first community-sponsored refugee families being welcomed to Australia by their community supporter groups are implementing a method based on the trialled and tested 40-year-old Canadian model.
Canada is recognised globally for the welcome it offers to refugees. Under this model, locals have the opportunity to form groups and sponsor and welcome a refugee household to their local area.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the new Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (‘CRISP’) program results from years of advocacy across the refugee sector.
“SSI has been advocating for a community-led sponsorship program since 2017, advising Australian governments that Australians are, like Canadians, ready to roll their sleeves up and welcome refugees to their communities.”
In 2017, Ms Roumeliotis accepted an invitation from the Canadian government agency, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to present SSI’s work in this area at the National Settlement Council meeting in Vancouver.
Following the forum, SSI representatives and CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Paul Power, participated in over 20 meetings and site visits in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, focusing on reviewing private sponsorship and settlement support for refugees.
“In 2017, we accelerated our advocacy for a fairer community sponsorship model.
“With the Refugee Council of Australia, SSI shared key findings after site visits and meetings with 18 NGOs and representatives on Canada’s globally recognised private sponsorship program,” said Ms Roumeliotis.
Over the past five years, key lessons emerged from SSI’s partnerships and collaboration with the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, UNHCR and the Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA).
Ahead of the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in 2019, SSI joined the Community Sponsorship Champions Summit in Cork, Ireland, with representatives from CRSA and Welcoming Australia.
The Summit provided the opportunity to engage with organisations across the globe that were implementing or exploring the feasibility of a community sponsorship program. SSI presented on the work being done with communities in Australia committed to sponsoring and supporting refugee settlement.
“SSI discussed working towards finding an avenue where we could harness the goodwill of individuals and communities in Australia to take part in supporting and welcoming refugees and contribute to building an inclusive society.”
The GRF was an occasion for the international community to advance the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees by mobilising political will, broadening the base of support, and implementing arrangements that facilitate more equitable, sustained, and predictable responsibility-sharing.
SSI and CRSA submitted a joint pledge in the area of Solutions at the GRF to continue working together to establish a community refugee sponsorship scheme in Australia.
“The GRF was an opportunity for us to share SSI’s expertise in strengthening community capacities, fostering inclusion and supporting refugees to participate in social, economic, civic and community life,” said Ms Roumeliotis.
“SSI pledged to share good practice and provide technical support and advice to resettlement and host countries to help build inclusive communities, promote refugee self-reliance and offer practice-based solutions.”
Since the GRF, SSI has developed new partnerships and supported new and emerging resettlement states. SSI is working with key stakeholders such as UNHCR and International Organization for Migration and delivered training to Argentinian donors and volunteers that are engaged in the sponsoring of refugees.
SSI encourages communities and individuals to learn more about the CRISP program here: refugeesponsorship.org.au/how-to-get-involved/