Following the successful introduction of the UK’s Community Sponsorship Scheme (CSS) complex and important challenges remain unresolved around the effective provision of pre-arrival information for refugees and volunteers, associated expectations, refugee wellbeing and long-term integration of refugees a new study reveals.
The three year study which has been launched at the start of Refugee Week found that the future of CSS in the UK and the growth of the programme depended on CSS groups having a positive experience and feeling that their contribution was worthwhile and successful.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) completed 250 interviews with refugees, volunteers, thought leaders and wider community members.
The study also found:
- Groups need support to understand the wide-ranging challenges associated with refugee integration particularly around social isolation and the impact of conflict and trauma together with signposting to sources of advice to help them assist refugees with overseas travel to enable them to reconnect with long-lost family members living elsewhere in Europe.
- There is a need for more regional networking opportunities for CSS groups, to allow them to learn from each other.
- Refugees should receive clear and concise information on what to expect from the CSS programme and what it means to be resettled under the scheme before arriving in the UK.
- Local authorities supporting resettled refugees under other resettlement programmes should be encouraged to share resources and support actions with CSS groups.
- The Home Office should consider allowing named sponsorship to enable groups to help support refugees to reunite with close family members eligible for resettlement.
Jenny Phillimore, Professor of Migration and Superdiversity, commented: "The CSS continues to evolve with the UK’s Home Office and the resettlement charity Reset actively has engaged with our recommendations and with the wider charities promoting CSS. Once the resettlement plan recommences post COVID-19, we should see the launch of a reworked scheme with more straightforward application processes. The range of support offered to groups by Reset and others is constantly expanding. Although it is still early days for Community Sponsorship in the UK our evaluation shows that the scheme has potential to transform the lives of refugees, volunteers, and wider communities. Hopefully with effective support for volunteers, CCS groups and refugees it will continue to expand and thrive for years to come."
Refugees who were supported by CSS groups were also interviewed expressed the following points:
- They felt overwhelmed by the care and support received by groups which far exceeded anything they expected and stood in stark contrast to the discrimination and harassment many had experienced in refuge countries.
- Many developed kin-like relationships with volunteers which span multiple generations and after years of instability are beginning to feel safe.
- Life however was not always as expected and after the initial joy of arrival and flurry or resettlement activity there have been disappointments such as struggling to learn English and secure employment which are refugees’ top priorities, yet take years rather than the weeks anticipated.
- Despite excellent relations with volunteers many refugees living in less diverse areas of the UK feel isolated and all refugees we spoke with found it hard to move forward while their friends and family are still in danger.
In 2016 the UK introduced CSS, enabling for the first time, local community groups to become directly responsible for supporting the resettlement of refugees.
The initiative was inspired by the Canadian Private Sponsorship scheme and was the second of its kind in the world. Since its establishment others are emerging elsewhere including variations on the model in Ireland, Italy, France, Portugal, and Germany.
Up to 400 refugees have now been resettled to locations across the UK, supported by around 70 groups, as in 2019 the UK Government had committed to supporting the CSS for a further five years, hoping to increase the numbers of refugees arriving under the scheme.
The UK’s new Global Resettlement Scheme which was planned for 2020 will ensure refugees resettled under CSS will be additional to national targets. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic the plan is on hold even though there are around 120 community groups who at some part when circumstances change plan to resettle refugees.
The emergence of the CSS plan has provided an avenue for action for various community groups strengthening local communities, enabling the development of new relationships and fundamentally enabling people to feel they could make a difference “the power of the little people” in the face of geopolitical turmoil.
The Three reports launched are:
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The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
Community Sponsorship in the UK: Formative evaluation 2017-2020. Jenny Phillimore, Marisol Reyes and Sara Hassan – is available to download. Copies ahead of embargo are available via email.
The Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) works to advance and promote the University’s expertise in the emerging field of superdiversity. It is the first institute in the UK and one of the first globally to focus on superdiversity. IRiS focusses on some of the most important social issues of our time and is at the forefront of new ways of thinking that have helped influence public policy and impact service delivery with more effective models of support.