Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Who Else Can Sponsor a Refugee? The List Is Limited, for Now

Your questions answered on how people can help refugees.

Liz Stark, the grandmother in chief of a sponsor group in Canada, which allows citizens to band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

Where can citizens privately sponsor refugees?

Canada is the rare country with a longstanding policy of letting individuals sponsor refugees without any family connection. Australia recently started a similar program, and New Zealand is planning one as well. Argentina and some states in Germany allow residents from Syria to sponsor relatives or friends. A similar effort in Switzerland was flooded with applications and shut down.

Does the United States allow private sponsors to resettle refugees?

Not right now, although efforts are underway to change that. While citizens can volunteer or donate money, and may use the word “sponsor” to describe their work, they never steer the process and are not able to affect the total number of refugees accepted.

“We don’t turn over responsibility,” said Lavinia Limón, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an agency that handles resettlement for the federal government. “It’s nothing like the Canadian model.”

(The United States, with its far larger population, takes in many more refugees than Canada, though Canada has resettled more from the Syrian crisis.)

Image: Sawsan and Muaz Ballani, standing at center, with their Canadian sponsors. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times. 

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