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Conference paves the way for a Community Sponsorship program in Portugal

The conference "Community Sponsorship of Refugees: a lasting and innovative solution" marked the first international event to discuss and work on the implementation of the Community Sponsorship Program for Refugees (CS) in Portugal. On the 22nd of September, more than 60 participants from more than 30 organizations gathered at Palacete Gomes Freire, in Lisbon, to think about the reception of refugees and the existing solutions, namely the CS.

The High Commissioner for Migrations, Sónia Pereira, opened the session by underlining the Government's commitment, following the approval of the Global Pact for Refugees, to develop and support CS projects.

The first panel was moderated by José Manuel Pureza - Professor at the University of Coimbra - and allowed a better understanding of the reception of refugees in Portugal, thanks to the experiences transmitted by Maria de Fátima Santos - president of the direction of Cáritas Castelo Branco - and to the investigations and studies of Lúcio Sousa - assistant professor at Universidade Aberta. The need and benefits of CS programs, as well as the feasibility of their implementation in Portugal, were analyzed by Elzbieta Gorska of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For Elzbieta "Portugal has a commitment to global solidarity and there is also political will. (...) We are well positioned, as a country, for [the PCR] to happen in a structured and inclusive way with the participation of all civil society, refugees, institutions with a lot of experience and the Government, which will support and promote it."

For José Manuel Pureza "We are living in a time of permanent challenging situations. CS programs and other tools must be understood as tools to provide society with the capabilities to be able to respond. We must have a welcoming society and not just hosting policies."

In the second panel, it was possible to explore the various aspects of CS, through the observations of the Global Director for Community Engagement of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI) - Colm O'Gorman. It was also possible to know the powerful testimonies, in the first person, of those involved in community sponsorship. Angham Younes and Zouheir Al Fakir shared their experience as sponsored refugees in Ireland. This couple, along with their daughter, were the first to arrive in the country through CS, in 2018. As activists in these programs, they promote CS and are now, themselves, sponsors of a family. For Angham "This is the way forward. This is the way to get to know people, the way to give them a real opportunity to boost their potential to be active members of their new communities". This was followed by the testimony of a sponsor - Janet Twomey - who launched the reflection: "If every community sponsored a family, imagine the difference it could make!"

The conference also provided interesting moments of sharing, conversation and networking. Participants also had the opportunity to enjoy some Ukrainian snacks, prepared by the International Culinary Hub, a culinary project of Ukrainian refugees supported by CPR.

The conference allowed for a deeper understanding of what community sponsorship is, reaffirming this type of programs as the most lasting and most inclusive solution to the worsening humanitarian crisis, bringing, at the same time, greater social cohesion and empowerment for communities that sponsor refugees.

Participants of the Conference "Community Sponsorship of Refugees: a lasting and innovative solution"

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