I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 260 together.
I established the Community Sponsorship Ireland pilot programme in 2018 as a complementary refugee resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. A number of organisations including UNHCR Ireland, Amnesty International, NASC and the Irish Red Cross worked closely with me and my Department officials in the development of this programme, which is being delivered under our Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
The programme is a complementary refugee resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. A key feature of this programme is to give private citizens and community-based organisations an opportunity to directly support a refugee family who are newly arrived to Ireland. Sponsoring communities support the integration of refugee families into Irish society by providing a home and offering opportunities for the family to connect with the local services they need, such as English language tuition, employment, and education pathways.
The refugee families taking part in the programme do so voluntarily and are identified during selection missions undertaken by my Department. The families have already been granted refugee status by the UNHCR. Matching of communities with families is done in collaboration with the Irish Red Cross and UNHCR. Refugees arriving through this programme are afforded the same access to services as Irish citizens including health, education and welfare services.
Under the pilot programme, five communities (in Dunshaughlin, Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Kells and Lismore) welcomed refugee families to their areas. The five refugee families comprised 17 people in total. The experience of the communities and the families has been very positive. Last month, the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI) presented an International Award to Ireland in recognition of the success of the Community Sponsorship Ireland pilot programme.
I formally launched the Community Sponsorship Ireland Programme on 15 November 2019 last in Cork with the support of Nasc, who worked with community groups and refugee families during the pilot programme.
To further promote the programme, an information leaflet has been prepared outlining the benefits of the programme, for communities and refugees alike. This leaflet will shortly be distributed to all local authority members throughout the country with an accompanying letter seeking their support in positively promoting the programme in their local communities. In addition, I organised a briefing with Oireachtas members in Leinster House on 19 November.
To provide supports for groups wishing to set up a Community Sponsorship Group in their area, funding is being provided for a number of regional support organisations based around the country. An additional family will be received by a host community in Dublin in the coming weeks. I hope that more communities will come forward and support this rewarding initiative, which empowers refugee families and local communities alike.