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"Community sponsorship can change our country and people's lives" Australia launches new CS program

George arrived with his family in Australia this week. At the age of ten, he has spent half his life displaced, being forced to flee Syria and remaining with his family in the Iraqi Kurdistan zone. Now he can finally go to school and think about a brighter future, as he was one of the lucky ones to have the opportunity to be welcomed in Australia and have the support and friendship of his neighbors and his community, thanks to the new sponsorship program community. For father Shadi, "the opportunity to rebuild their war-torn lives is a dream come true".

George Al-Daoud and family are met at Sydney Airport by their sponsor group. Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

The first three families resettled through the Pilot Community Reception and Integration of Refugees (CRISP) have arrived in Australia. After years of advocacy and activism, a new community sponsorship program has been established in Australia. The previous program was criticized for being extremely expensive for groups and refugees, having demanding and sometimes unfair admission criteria and for not contributing to the additionality of the commitment of resettlement programs.

For the Australian Minister for Migration, Andrew Giles, "the community sponsorship program is something that can change the country, as well as change the lives of people who need to be resettled". The pilot program aims to resettle 1.500 refugees over three years. After the pilot, the program should have a quota of up to 5 thousand, which will be additional to the reinstallation. The program is based on the Canadian model, which has successfully welcomed more than 325.000 refugees since 1978. The sponsoring groups must receive training in order to support and guide the family to integrate into the community and the country. They are the support network that will help the family navigate Australian life.

"It's a very simple and elegant concept: if you give the average Australian the opportunity to be generous and compassionate and you pair them with a refugee, they will help each other and it works!" says Lisa Button, director of Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia.

For UNHCR Regional Representative Adrian Edwards, "It's easy for people to feel powerless in the face of the escalating global refugee situation. This project provides an opportunity for ordinary Australians to do something practical and address the challenge of refugees, a family the turn".

Sponsor Philip McNab waits for the family at Sydney Airport. Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

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