Community Sponsorship Ireland is an alternative to the traditional state-centred model of refugee resettlement. It enables local communities to come together and play an active role in the reception and integration of families and individuals resettling in Ireland. The people resettling under Community Sponsorship Ireland have already been registered as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and are invited by the Irish Government under the Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme.
The Irish Government committed to developing Community Sponsorship Ireland in 2017, with the first arrival of a Syrian family to Dunshaughlin, County Meath under the 'pilot' programme in December 2018. By the middle of 2021, around fifty people comprising thirteen families have been welcomed by thirteen Irish communities with the support of Regional Support Organisations like the Irish Refugee Council. The concept is gaining a lot of interest around across Irish communities as illustrated in the video link below. One hundred people per year are expected to be welcomed by Irish communities under Community Sponsorship Ireland by the end of 2023.
Community Sponsorship is carried out by a local voluntary group such as neighbours, friends, colleagues, or members of a local sports club with the support of a Regional Support Organisation like Irish Refugee Council. A Community Sponsorship group provides support for one family unit that have been invited to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. This includes welcoming the arrivals at the airport, providing a warm Irish welcome and ongoing cultural orientation and befriending.
Supports are expected to be provided for up to two years and include financial assistance by fundraising at least 10,000 euros (up to 2,000 of which can be in-kind equivalents) to be used to support integration needs. Groups also secure housing in their local area for a period of 24 months, typically availing of Housing Assistance Payments. Working with the resettled family, groups to enable local connections, befriending and documentation support to access medical, social and other mainstream services, as well as English language development or accessing education or employment according to their personal ambitions.
Many Community Sponsorship groups will attest they gain an immense amount from the experience including expanding cultural awareness, solidarity, sharing of language, music, faith, sport and building on the long-held tradition of the Irish welcome.
The Irish Refugee Council is a 'Regional Support Organisation' (RSO). This means we guide and train community groups who are interested in sponsoring a family invited to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme. We are currently supporting 10 communities across Ireland in preparing to sponsor refugee families, three of which have welcomed resettled families. The Irish Red Cross, Nasc and Doras are also RSOs providing similar assistance.
In 2021, The Open Community, which is the National Support Organisation for Community Sponsorship Ireland launched its website, which includes a range of useful resources for groups who are interested, featuring insights from resettled families and group members. The Irish Refugee Council supported the Clane Community Sponsorship group in Co Kildare to welcome a Syrian family in 2019; a story that is featured on this website.
If your community is interested to participate, or you have any questions about the progamme or need assistance in preparing an application, you can email our Integration Projects Manager, Rory O' Neill.