(ERN+ Scoping Paper) Private Sponsorship in Europe: Expanding complementary pathways for refugee resettlement

Private sponsorship initiatives, although not always labelled as such, have emerged in Europe since 2015 as a tangible engagement in refugee welcome and solidarity, in an effort to respond to deaths at sea and migrants taking increasingly dangerous routes to reach safety. Complementary pathways of admission for refugees, additional to national resettlement programmes, can play a key role in expanding the options for refugees to attain third-country solutions to their displacement.

By presenting a number of case studies, including Humanitarian Corridors in Italy and France, Community-based Sponsorship in the United Kingdom, and private sponsorship for extended family reunification in Germany and Ireland, the publication defines private sponsorship as a public-private partnership between governments, who facilitate legal admission for refugees, and private actors, who provide financial, social and/or emotional support. Looking at the Canadian examples with comparative lens, this research seeks to learn from the case studies presented and to identify common grounds as well as best practices and challenges in the implementation of such programmes. It emerges that the definition and division of responsibilities between the State and private actors is a crucial aspect, which affects the sustainability and, ultimately, the success of a programme. With this regard, blended approaches – that can be inspired in part by practice in Canada and the United Kingdom – can help fairly allocate responsibilities and costs, mitigate risks for the sponsors, and ensure that private sponsorship benefits refugees who need it the most, particularly when resulting in additional admission spaces. 

This publication is part of a wider body of research by the European Resettlement Network, and is followed by a targeted feasibility study on a model for private sponsorship.