Amnesty International applauds NZ Minister's leadership for signing onto Global State Network for refugee sponsorship

New Zealand Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has signed onto a joint statement by ministers around the world to endorse community-based refugee sponsorship. The countries involved have also announced a States Network, a global effort to help grow such programmes to create stronger and more vibrant communities “built around our common humanity”.

The announcements come at the first ever Global Refugee Forum (an outcome of the Refugee Compact) and  in July 2018 where immigration ministers from countries including New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Argentina and Spain, committed to advancing community-based refugee sponsorship.

The States Network seeks to increase refugee protection though sharing best practice and facilitating policy change. It also calls on other countries to "join a growing cohort of countries, in partnership with civil society (communities) in offering a warm and supportive welcome to refugees”. There's also a call to private citizens, community groups, businesses and philanthropists to partner with the countries to ensure that community-based refugee sponsorship programs succeed and grow.

Executive Director Meg de Ronde says she’s thrilled that the Government is endorsing community-based refugee sponsorship and demonstrating leadership in joining the innovative network.

“We warmly welcome the minister’s endorsement and believe a global Network is what’s needed to grow such projects and to foster more connected and caring communities. What’s happened in New Zealand is a success story we can all be proud of; we have come across so many life-changing stories from the newcomers and sponsors involved. We hope it will encourage other countries to implement similar programmes. We are also very humbled to be a part of sharing this success story, of the Community Sponsorship of Refugees pilot programme, on a global stage at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.”

Amnesty International Executive Director Meg de Ronde

She says the demand is rapidly growing in New Zealand.

“We’ve already collected over 10,000 signatures from everyday people who say they want the Community Sponsorship of Refugees to continue. We now have organisations enquiring as to how they can become sponsors. From church groups to local businesses and sports clubs, we’d like to see more organisations given the opportunity to assist in what is a growing global crisis; there are now over 25 million people seeking refuge worldwide. Especially with a growth in global politics that feeds xenophobia and division, we need programmes like this that connect people in their common humanity.”

Amnesty International Executive Director Meg de Ronde

Background on Community Sponsorship in New Zealand

New Zealand has advanced its Community Sponsorship of Refugees, a programme the New Zealand Government labels the Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Category Evaluation (), which has  in Timaru, Christchurch, Nelson and Hamilton. The community-based sponsorship allows individuals, communities, and organisations to directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts. It runs alongside the government-led quota systems; the difference is that individuals and community groups are responsible for providing support to the new refugees as they settle into life.

Excerpts from statement:

We recognize that tremendous compassion and a desire to alleviate human suffering exist within our national communities.

In partnership with government, community-based refugee sponsorship leverages this goodwill by allowing sponsors to commit to providing emotional and integration support to help newly arrived refugees adapt to life in a new country. Such programs have already offered protection and durable solutions to some of the world’s most at-risk refugees, many of whom are now thriving in their new communities.

On December 17, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Compact on Refugees, which paved the way for the UNHCR-led, multi-stakeholder Three-Year (2019-

2021) Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways. The Global Compact on Refugees recognizes the value of community-based sponsorship programs and calls for expansion of such programs in support of the Three-Year Strategy goals of growing resettlement; advancing complementary pathways; and promoting welcoming and inclusive societies.

With this in mind, we are pleased to announce the formation of a GRSI States Network. This international collaboration, co-chaired by Canada and the United Kingdom, will allow us to collectively promote and support community-based sponsorship programs for refugees. This approach aligns with the Three-Year Strategy call for state-to-state engagement to expand third country solutions with the support of champion states.

As members of this States Network, we commit to encouraging states that are interested in launching new programs; sharing best practices internationally; and facilitating technical and policy exchanges on the use of sponsorship in refugee protection. While thousands of refugees have been given a new home through community-based refugee sponsorship globally, we hope to see this number grow in the years to come.

We call upon members of the international community to consider community-based refugee sponsorship as a model for creating additional protection spaces; improving integration outcomes; and strengthening our own communities. We invite others to join a growing cohort of countries, working in partnership with civil society, in offering a warm and supportive welcome to refugees. We, as members of the GRSI States Network, offer our friendship and support in this endeavour, standing ready to answer questions and to provide guidance throughout the entire lifecycle of refugee sponsorship.

We also call upon private citizens, community groups, businesses and philanthropists to partner with us to ensure that community-based refugee sponsorship programs succeed and grow. Together we can provide support for refugees and create strong and vibrant communities built around our common humanity.

Full statement .

Refugee Hub write up .

“Ministers from several of the countries in the States Network—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Spain—came together to mark the Global Refugee Forum by releasing a public statement indicating their support for community refugee sponsorship. You can read the full text of the statement here.”