Community-based refugee sponsorship in Spain-Basque Country
- Jonan Fernández, General Secretary on Human Rights, Coexistence and Cooperation, Basque Country
- Esther Pías, Adviser of the Secretary of State of Migrations, Spain
Email: [email protected]
Social: Twitter - @ACNURspain
Introduction to the project
Spain and the Basque Country Autonomous Region
2018 – March 2021
Since 2018, Spain has set the course for a new approach to resettling refugees by introducing the concept of community-based refugee sponsorship.
The country has started a pilot project in the Basque cities of Bilbao, Donostia and Vitoria, where 29 Syrians (5 families) have been resettled in March 29, 2019.
The Spanish government, together with the regional government of the Basque Country and with the collaboration of the UNHCR, is working to develop a community sponsorship programme which builds on the solidarity with refugees shown by the people of Spain. This programme presents the chance to strengthen resettlement and refugee integration in Spain, as well as a unique opportunity to advance coordination among central, regional and local authorities to welcome refugees. Spain hopes the successful implementation of the programme in Basque Country will lead to the implementation of similar initiatives in Spanish regions that have expressed an interest in contributing to this effort.
- The Secretary of State for Migration provides all the funds and personnel resources until the refugees arrive in Spain.
- The Basque regional government sponsors each family for two years and funds a part-time social worker (one per family) employed by the CSOs.
- The CSOs have provided a house for each family for the first two years and maintain a bank account with €10,000.
- The volunteers offer their time to assist the refugees in their daily life.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Each family is supported by a local sponsoring group of up to 10-12 local community members, who are guided by a specialised local CSO (either Ellacuría Foundation or Caritas). The pilot also includes coordination schemes with municipalities. The children go to school and adults receive some training and are helped to find a job.
- Ellacuría Foundation
How challenges were overcome
Ensuring communication and flexibility between all actors involved to face the new challenges.
Results of the Good Practice
- The role of the community in the integration of refugees is crucial both for the community and for the refugees since the involvement
- They learn Spanish faster, which accelerates their integration because they have a lot of support to reconcile their classes with the care of their children. Faster literacy.
- Literacy and language learning facilitate access to the labour market.
- Faster and more effective integration into the community.
According to testimonies from local groups, the experiences have so far been very promising. The project is developing a new policy whereby individuals may directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts in their town. The engagement of local community groups (usually faith communities) in the bottom-up integration of refugees is making a valuable difference.
As for the future, the Spanish central government, the Basque regional government and UNHCR are championing the pilot and are interested in exploring the possibility of expanding the pilot to other regions in Spain.