Report: Community sponsorships for quota refugees could supplement authorities’ measures
The report ordered by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment assesses whether Finland could use the so-called community sponsorship integration model when accepting refugees. According to the reports, the model could make the integration of refugees in Finland faster and support the integration work led by the state and municipalities.
In the community sponsorship model, a quota refugee would be appointed five sponsors who would participate in the refugee’s integration for 1–2 years. The sponsor group could help the quota refugee in matters such as the early stages of settling, finding social networks, planning the future, language studies and finding a job or training. The aim is to speed up and improve the integration of quota refugees.
At its best, the community sponsor activity could, according to the report, prevent malaise and psychosocial issues created by loneliness and lack of everyday connections. It could also be used to create permanent structures in the cooperation between authorities and civil societies. The report states that in the long run, the civil society’s more fixed participation in integration could also support increasing the refugee quota.
Community sponsor activity could be piloted in a few municipalities
The report proposes that the community sponsor operations have a national coordinator. The coordinator would manage the realisation of goals by, for example, organising training and supporting local agents. Local coordinators would also be needed. They would be responsible for the recruiting of community sponsors, connecting refugees and sponsors, and close cooperation between the public sector and civil society.
The report also proposes piloting the community sponsor operations in a few municipalities. Based on the results from the pilots, the operations could be developed and possibly expanded to new municipalities.
Integration operators welcome the model
The report reviewed Finland’s opportunities to develop the community sponsorship model in cooperation between the state, municipalities, organisations and rest of civil society. In addition to the feasibility of the model, the report assessed its requirements, additional value and possible challenges within the context of Finland.
Integration operators have responded positively to the community sponsorship. All municipalities accepting quota refugees were sent a survey, which was answered by a total of 32 municipalities around Finland. Additionally, organisations working in integration, representatives of churches and religious communities, researchers and people operating in volunteer work were asked about the opportunities of community sponsorship.
The report was produced by the Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius, which operates under the University of Jyväskylä. The report was realised with funding from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and as part of the ministries’ research operations. The members of the steering group included representatives from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
The Commission and the UN encourage the use of the new model
Community sponsorship was created in Canada where the sponsor operations of private parties started in 1978. In the last few years, similar integration models have become more common in the EU countries and globally, and there have been encouraging reports concerning the improved integration results of quota refugees.
The European Commission published in September 2020 an in-depth report concerning immigration and asylum matters in which it highlighted the importance of accepting quota refugees, among other things. The Commission also encourages the Member States to establish programmes for community sponsorships together with civil society. The development of these programmes is also one of the objectives of the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 2019–2021 strategy concerning quota refugees.
“The UNHCR warmly welcomes this study as it provides a first and important step towards establishing a community-based sponsorship programme in Finland. Community-based sponsorship programmes allow citizens and local communities to directly engage with and support the states’ refugee integration work, contribute to finding solutions for refugees, and building together a stronger community for all. With such support, refugees have a network to help them adapt, learn, find a job and integrate more quickly," says Henrik M. Nordentoft, the UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries.
“We have already seen positive and visible results in other European countries and the UNHCR is ready to support Finland in taking the next steps,” he continues.
The reception of quota refugees is a traditional priority of Finland's immigration policy and will continue to be a key priority. It is a way of being globally responsible and offering protection effectively and safely to those who need it the most. This year, Finland will accept 1,050 quota refugees and Finland’s goal in the EU cooperation is to have the operations established in as many Member States as possible.
Elina Johansson, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 615, [email protected] (quota refugees)
Varpu Taarna, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 048 243, [email protected] (integration)
Kati Turtiainen, Senior Lecturer, tel. +358 40 669 1955, [email protected] (study on integration)