A new programme was launched by the new Secretary of State for the Home Department, Amber Rudd, this Tuesday (19th July) introducing community sponsorship of refugees.
The new scheme arose from the general eagerness of the British public to help refugees as a result of the Syrian crisis and the willingness of the Government to channel offers of assistance into a structured programme.
The full community sponsorship programme will enable community groups to welcome refugee families in the UK, starting with vulnerable children and Syrians under the UNHCR's resettlement programmes. Community sponsors will be responsible for helping families settle into the UK and will be able to offer assistance on a range on different topics, such as housing, registration with medical and social service or arranging English language tuition. In turn, sponsoring organisations will have to be vetted by the Home Office to ensure that they are able to provide appropriate support and that they will not pose a risk to the resettled family.
The community sponsorship arrangement includes an online register, hosted by the official gov.uk website, called "Help Refugees in the UK". This database will allow local authorities to identify the goods and services that they require to support refugees, and the system will help with distributing them to where they are most needed. The digital initiative will initially be launched in nine pilot local authorities and then be expanded to more areas.
This scheme is advantageous in two ways - it will help to channel goodwill gestures and contributions efficiently, and it will provide refugees with a critical community contact and support which will facilitate their integration into society.
The initiative has already been welcomed by several organisations and charities. The Refugee Council's Chief Executive said: "This scheme helps harness the eagerness and determination of the public to welcome refugees into their communities. Hopefully it can also become a way for more refugees of all nationalities to reach the UK safely and legally in the future." The Refugee Council has noted that the scheme will be primarily aimed at helping the 20,000 Syrian refugees being resettled in the UK by 2020, and that the Government has not committed to using community sponsorship to expand that scheme and bring more refugees to safety. However, the initiative is still seen as widely positive as it may be a pathway towards welcoming more refugees in the future and assist with their integration.
Guidance and further detail on how to become a community sponsor have been published on the Government website, gov.uk.