20 February 2023. A new campaign run by Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) organisations is calling for volunteers to welcome refugees from Syria and Afghanistan to Ireland.
The campaign includes radio ads voiced by Tara Flynn that will run on national radio stations, asking volunteers if they can be guides to ‘all things Ireland’ by becoming community sponsors – they can do this by visiting theopencommunity.ie.
Under community sponsorship, volunteers form sponsorship groups that support Syrian and Afghan refugees in resettling and rebuilding their lives in safety in Irish communities.
The CSI programme has been running since 2018 and is administered by the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) under the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, with the support of UNHCR.
Sponsorship groups are assisted to welcome refugees by four Regional Support Organisations who are part of the CSI banner; Doras, the Irish Red Cross, the Irish Refugee Council and Nasc, and by The Open Community, which is the national support organisation for CSI.
Majo Rivas, Community Sponsorship Manager at Nasc, said: “We know and have seen that people across Ireland want to support refugees, and are looking for a way to help. Community sponsorship is a very effective way to do that – it builds lasting connections in communities, makes integration easier and it has been successful in Ireland and around the world.”
Sponsorship groups support newcomers with things like accessing education, employment, health and social services, and local public transport and amenities. Groups also commit to fundraise a minimum of €10,000 pre-arrival to help support the families or individuals to settle in their new communities.
Each group also completes trauma-informed training modules to support them in welcoming families and individuals who are fleeing war, conflict or persecution.
Conor Platt, Project Coordinator with The Open Community, said a key strength of the programme is its community-led nature and the training and support provided. “Refugees who come through the programme are welcomed from the moment they arrive by sponsors who use their local knowledge and skills to provide a ready-made network of support, and who are themselves also supported by all the organisations involved,” he said.
Frieda Donohue is a member of a community sponsorship group in Kildare, who have welcomed a family through the programme. She said: “It has been one of the most impactful things I have had an opportunity to do in my life. At a time when our news is filled with dire stories of war, displacement and division, it has been a privilege to be able to help real people in small and meaningful ways. Our community sponsorship group has also been a tremendous source of friendship and community for all involved.”
For more information on how to become a community sponsor visit theopencommunity.ie.
- Doras: John Lannon, CEO. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Irish Red Cross: Colette Morris, Head of Migration Services. Email: Cmorris@redcross.ie
- Irish Refugee Council: Wendy Muperi, Communications Officer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Nasc: Olivia Teahan, Policy and Communications Manager. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Open Community: Keelin Fitzgerald, Communications and Information Officer. Email: email@example.com.
Notes to the Editor
- Community Sponsorship Ireland is the name of Ireland’s Community Sponsorship Programme for Refugees. It is an Irish government initiative led by the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), and supported by UNHCR, as well as by Doras, the Irish Red Cross, the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc, and The Open Community.
- More information and a FAQ on the programme can be found at: https://theopencommunity.ie/frequently-asked-questions/
- It is estimated that about 115 people have arrived through the Community Sponsorship Ireland programme to date.
- The Open Community is the national support organisation for CSI. We are currently being incubated as a project within Amnesty International Ireland, but will be incorporated as an independent entity by the end of 2023.