ERN+ Webinar on Private Sponsorship of Refugees in Europe

The first in the ERN+ Webinar series on complementary pathways of refugee admission ‘Emerging Private Sponsorship Programmes in Europe: a new partnership between government and local communities’ took place on 23 February 2017 (15.00-17.00 CET). Over 60 participants from international organisations, national and regional authorities, faith-based and other civil society organisations in various European countries as well as Canada, the US and South America attended the webinar.

Expanding safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe in a way that is complementary to resettlement is central to enhancing access to international protection and providing a durable solution for those in need. Private sponsorship of refugees, such as Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Programme, can play an important role in this regard: such initiatives provide a mechanism for tapping into additional resources which may otherwise not be utilised to support admission programmes, while also helping to ensure a more sustainable and holistic integration of refugees into their new host societies.

With the overall goal of exploring ways to further build the capacity of potential new stakeholders who aim to set up private sponsorship programmes in other European countries, this webinar assessed the state of play of emerging private sponsorship models in Europe. Through the discussion of three comparative case studies of countries currently running private sponsorship models – namely Canada, Italy and the UK – the six expert panellists explored the main characteristics of, and issues addressed by, each respective programme, from the perspectives of both governments and sponsors.

While lessons learned from what is working in Canada, Italy and the UK may not necessarily be directly applicable to all countries, the experiences gathered from sponsors, governments and beneficiaries alike in those countries are invaluable in helping other European countries develop their own models of private sponsorship.

The panellists addressed key questions and challenges to consider when implementing such programmes, taking the Canadian model as an example and building on the experiences of their own countries. Petra Hueck, director of ICMC Europe, introduced the webinar, presenting the comparative research conducted thus far by ICMC Europe on the Italian and UK private sponsorship programmes, showing how they link to the respective country's resettlement programmes (s. below). In June 2017, the ERN will publish a scoping paper further expanding the current phase of research, which will include an examination of family reunification as a prominent component of many private sponsorship programmes. This paper builds on previous research conducted by ICMC Europe under the ERN Framework on resettlement and complementary pathways of admission. 

Throughout the webinar, attendees submitted questions that our expert presenters considered in a subsequent discussion. The main considerations of the existing programmes addressed by the panelists included (1) the process of identification and referral, as well as legal status granted to refugees arriving under private sponsorship, (2) the relationship between private sponsorship programmes and existing resettlement commitments, (3) eligibility criteria for becoming a sponsor, and the responsibilities held by sponsors, (4) the nature of partnership between the government and sponsors/civil society and (5) prospects for the long-term social and economic integration of beneficiaries and the actual or projected impact of sponsorship schemes on integration.


1.   Canada:

a.      Derrick Deans is Assistant Director for Refugee Affairs within the department for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in the government of Canada. He spoke on the main features of the Canadian Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and its continued adaptation to meet emerging needs.

b.      Sabine Lehr is Immigrant Services Manager at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), a settlement agency in western Canada. She also manages ICA’s private sponsorship of refugees program and is an elected member of the SAH Council, the representative body of the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association. Sabine spoke on private sponsors under Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and their experiences, challenges and crucial success factors.

2.     Italy

a.      Donatella Candura, is Vice Prefect in the International Relations Unit of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of Interior where she is responsible for the Italian resettlement program. In the field of migration, she also gained experience abroad, having been seconded to the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Immigration in Madrid, for one year. Enabling Humanitarian Corridors- the Italian government’s support to private sponsorship of refugees in Italy.

b.      Paolo Impagliazzo is in charge of refugees programme at the International Relations Office of the Community of Sant’Egidio. He began his international activities with Sant’Egidio in 2002, working on issues such as the reconciliation process in Liberia and the peace talks in Darfur, as well as acceptance and integration of young immigrants and refugees in Italy. Since 2013, he is again full-time part of the International Relations Office. In his presentation, Paolo addressed the Humanitarian Corridors as a form of private sponsorship in Italy and spoke on the defining role for civil society therein.

c.      Giulia Gori works as a project officer for the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – Refugees and Migrant Programme. She also carries out policy and advocacy work in the field of migration and asylum at national and European level. She spoke on FCEI’s ongoing work in welcoming and integrating newcomers through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

3.     United Kingdom

a.      Gideon Winward works for the UK civil service and has led the design and delivery of the UK's community sponsorship scheme. Gideon presented the main features of the UK Community Sponsorship Programme, highlighting, in particular, the strong partnership between government and local communities.

b.      Mark Wiggin is the CEO of Caritas Diocese of Salford, a member of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) England and Wales that is, in turn, a member of Caritas Europe. Caritas Diocese of Salford was one of the first voluntary organisations in the UK to take responsibility for a refugee family under the new government supported Community Sponsorship scheme and alongside the Home Office.  He spoke on the role of the voluntary sector in facilitating private sponsorship of refugees in the UK full community sponsorship model.