Community Sponsorship

There are now two ways to officially come here for resettlement. The original Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme and now an additional children’s scheme which identifies children and their families who are vulnerable. The Government has added another 3,000 to their original 20,000 people to include this group. They do not have to come from Syria. They are from MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) There are many people who arrive in the UK who have not come here through these excellent programmes. They have had long journeys, often crossing seas in dangerous dinghies with people smugglers. Many spend time in poorly resourced camps like Calais for many months before they are able to make it here. Some have to leave their closest family behind in another country as the journey is too dangerous.

Unlike Essex some councils often feel too pressured by the needs of their constituents to make an offer of resettlement.

There is a way to speed this up. Community sponsorship is an alternative way of you and I taking matters into our own hands. The Home Office have now made the opportunity available to us, you and I, directly as a result of cross party collaboration and lobbying.

Sadly, numbers of people who arrive through sponsorship still come off the 20,000 total originally put forward by Cameron so no extra people are scheduled to arrive – however, they can arrive more quickly and those taking part believe a good take up will convince the government and less receptive councils to do more.

In practical terms you need a community organisation, a Community Interest Company or Charity who hold the finances. Each adult coming means 4.5 thousand pounds must be set aside to cover potential needs, furnishing a house, rental top up over the local authority allowance, and to cover costs when there are gaps between benefits being applied for and received. It’s not a great deal and in communities like this where goods have been generously and freely given those amounts will seldom be needed in full.

If you are interested in supporting a community sponsorship of a family then do please let us know. We will need a committee, funds and a positive attitude as the process can be lengthy.

Sponsorship can bring you to places where you never imagined – learning about the journey of refugees and also their ongoing struggles as family and friends face danger back at home or on their journeys. It’s always an enriching experience. Thinking about what you would like to find in a community if you had to move to another country breaks down the separation that too many news reports cause. In one of our first workshops about welcoming sanctuary seekers to Colchester we asked people to share a time they’d been made to feel welcome. Not one reply was about things – all of them involved a human connection. The people of this area have proved already that they want to share and make connections.

I’d like to share a short video of a community sponsorship scheme starting in Fishguard, Wales who recently became a community sponsorship town.

by Maria Wilby