The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative

How Communities Sponsor Refugees: Canada's Program

Learn how Canada’s community refugee sponsorship program works.

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative seeks to increase refugee protection around the world. Launched in Ottawa in December 2016, the Initiative is led by the:

  • Government of Canada
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Open Society Foundations
  • The Giustra Foundation
  • The Shapiro Foundation
  • University of Ottawa

There are some 1.2 million refugees around the world in critical need of resettlement. The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative aims to build on Canada’s private sponsorship model to promote and support the development of new community-based sponsorship programs in other countries.

Want to know more about designing your own sponsorship program? Check out Building blocks of community sponsorship: Guidebook and planning tools based on Canada’s model.

What is refugee sponsorship?

Refugee sponsorship allow individuals to directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts. Sponsors commit to providing financial, emotional and resettlement support to help newly arrived refugees integrate into life in a new country.

The Government of Canada has resettled nearly 300,000 refugees through its Private Sponsorship of Refugees program since 1979. Some 69,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled to Canada since November 2015, and more than 31,000 of these benefitted from the support of a sponsor group. More than 42,000 non-Syrian refugees came to Canada through private sponsorship during the same period.

The success of Canada’s private sponsorship program clearly demonstrates that community programs can:

  • build powerful bonds between sponsors and refugees
  • strengthen host communities
  • foster positive attitudes towards refugees and resettlement

Canada’s privately sponsored refugees also tend to have relatively early, positive integration and settlement outcomes, thanks in part to the social support they receive from sponsors.

Sponsoring Refugees: What to Expect

Learn what it really means to sponsor a refugee and how to prepare for their arrival.

Goals of the initiative

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative aims to help and inspire other countries to open new pathways for refugee protection. The goals are to:

  • Increase and improve overall refugee resettlement by engaging private citizens, communities, and businesses in resettlement efforts.
  • Strengthen local host communities that come together to welcome newcomers.
  • Encourage a broader discussion that is supportive of refugee protection.

What the initiative does

Many states and NGOs want to allow citizens or other private entities to directly sponsor refugees, and want to learn from Canada’s experiences. They urgently require information and support that extends beyond a mere description of Canada’s model.

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative offers:

  • Training and public education on the Canadian private sponsorship system: Developing training modules to support government and community actors, and more general education tools for public consumption.
  • Championing private refugee sponsorship in other countries: Identifying and reaching out to champions in other countries willing to promote private sponsorship.
  • Technical assistance: Providing technical and strategic advisory services.
  • Capacity-building: Assisting to build capacity for new community-based sponsorship programs, including overseeing unique local-level partnerships.

Read a statement about this initiatives’ ongoing efforts to support community-based refugee sponsorship (PDF, 477 KB).


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