I established the Community Sponsorship Ireland Programme in 2018 as a complementary refugee resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. Community Sponsorship is based on the coming together of a group of people in an area who commit to support a family arriving in Ireland through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme by accessing accommodation locally for the family and supporting them as they access services.
The Community Sponsorship Programme allows private citizens and community-based organisations an opportunity to directly support a refugee family who are newly arrived to Ireland and offers the opportunity for communities to welcome refugees to their communities in practical ways.
The people who arrive in Ireland and are assisted through this programme will already have been accepted by the Government as UNHCR approved refugees. They are immediately afforded the same access to services as Irish citizens including health, education and welfare services.
I formally launched the Community Sponsorship Programme on behalf of the government on 15 November 2019 in Cork with the support of Nasc, who worked with community groups and refugee families during the pilot programme. I issued a press release on the Programme on the same date, which is available on my Department's website - http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR19000282
A successful Pilot Programme preceded the formal launch of the Programme. This pilot saw 5 communities welcoming families to their areas in 3 counties. The communities, and the Syrian families who were supported, in Dunshaughlin, Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Kells and Lismore have had a very positive experience of the Programme to date.
The evaluation review of the Pilot Programme will be made available publicly following a meeting of the key stakeholders involved, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks.