Scaling up refugee settlement by community involvement

Migration Policy Institute addresses the issue of “complementary pathways” to increase the flow of refugee resettlement:

Recent displacement crises—from Syria, Afghanistan, and Venezuela to Myanmar, South Sudan, and most recently, Ukraine—have imposed huge stresses on the humanitarian protection regime.

Complementary pathways (including family reunification schemes, labor and education opportunities, and community and private sponsorship refugee resettlement and humanitarian admission programs) have grown in popularity in recent years, but thus far have benefitted only a small number of people. The real promise of complementary pathways is to beef up capacity—both in the ability to process of refugees and in public willingness to welcome refugees.

Thus far, only Canada—the architect of this approach—has realized this vision, with roughly two-thirds of all refugees each year arriving through community or private sponsorship programs.

Private or community sponsorship schemes put in place in Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom for Ukrainians try to scale and fund these programs to unprecedented levels. The U.S. government announced a private sponsorship pilot program. United States also is allowing for community sponsorship via a Sponsor Circles program—still a small pilot—for Afghan refugees and evacuees. Canada has launched an Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot to channel potential refugees into the Canadian labor market based on skills rather than vulnerability, which could prove a model for other countries if effectively scaled.

A Migration Policy Institute study found that the number of refugees entering complementary pathways has been constrained not only due to limited eligibility compared to other entry channels, but also because of other challenges. These programs are resource intensive to operate, need flexible legal frameworks to adapt existing visa channels (e.g. for study/work) to refugees’ backgrounds, require strong buy-in from and coordination between relevant stakeholders (including volunteers, civil-society groups, companies, universities, and local and national authorities), and typically rely on diverse sources of funding.

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