IMPACT REPORT Community sponsorship of resettled refugees in Dutch municipalities: an achievable possibility!
Impact and recommendations Samen Hier pilot Rotterdam
About a year ago, our initiative Samen Hier started a pilot with community sponsorship of resettled refugees in Rotterdam. By implementing this successful Canadian model in the Netherlands, Justice & Peace makes it possible for Dutch municipalities to give small groups of citizens an active role in the reception and support of refugees who are being resettled from a refugee camp to the Netherlands. In Rotterdam, two groups of citizens were ready from day one as sponsors for Abdalla and Yassin to make the transition and the building of a new life in Rotterdam easier. The sponsor groups worked closely together with the municipality and local partners such as Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland. Samen Hier grew out of previous Justice & Peace initiatives, which showed the importance of access to established social networks for the successful integration of newcomers. There appeared to be a great demand for sustainable connections with Dutch residents.
In June 2022, we published the impact report about the Samen Hier pilot in Rotterdam. In the report, we look back on the results, the experiences, and the recommendations of the Samen Hier sponsor groups, the municipality of Rotterdam, VluchtelingenWerk Nederland and the executive partner organisation Rotterdam Verwelkomt Vluchtelingen. These are positive and promising. All those involved see added value in this approach and a public-private partnership for the reception of resettled refugees – for the newcomers, the municipality and partners, as well as the community of Rotterdam. Thus, Rotterdam has decided to continue and expand the collaboration with Samen Hier.
“You can only increase support in society by bringing Rotterdammers into contact with refugees. This works very well in Canada, while hardly anyone in the Netherlands personally knows a refugee.”
(Employee, the municipality of Rotterdam)
Experiences with Samen Hier and Resettled Refugees
The municipality of Rotterdam calls Samen Hier a welcome addition to the existing support for familiarising newcomers in the city. The guidance that the municipality usually takes on is now done together with citizens. This support goes further than practical help: groups offer a bit of security and warmth and increase access to cultural and social facilities in the city.
“As city, we have been taking in resettled refugees for a long time, but we lacked intensive guidance in the beginning. This group has a lot of questions at the beginning. In the past, I was called 24/7 about all kinds of things. There was a gap that could easily be bridged by a group.”
(Employee, the municipality of Rotterdam)
The sponsor group members of Rotterdam also positively look back on their Samen Hier year. They envisioned a role to help someone feel at home in the Netherlands from day one. The first months required a lot of commitment and flexibility to support the newcomers with practical matters. This intensive period paid off in a close bond and to undertake things as friends, during the rest of the year and the future:
“It costs a lot of energy, but it also has enormous value. It really enriches our lives. We enjoy doing this.”
(Resident of Rotterdam)
For the resettled newcomers, Samen Hier initially meant practical support of residents, support with the language and shaping their own integration process. Ultimately, community sponsorship meant a lot more to them. They both spoke about how important it was that, next to organisations, a group of Dutch people was ready for them, to have the feeling that they were seen and not alone.
“The group feels like family and like friends: as family because they always ask how I am doing, what I did today, what I ate. They give me attention as family does. And next to this as friends because we do fun things together, laugh together, they help me with the language.”
The five conditions for success of community sponsorship for resettled refugees:
- An open and flexible attitude from all involved;
- A clear division of tasks and roles;
- Regular moments of coordination between all those involved;
- Making use of the pre-departure phase for a good match between the group and the newcomers;
- Stimulating equality and self-regulation in the training and supervision of the groups.
For municipalities and partners that want to set up community sponsorship, Justice & Peace has developed a practical Samen Hier format that includes manuals, checklists and tailor-made guidance.
Recommendations for municipalities
- Offer residents a perspective that shows concrete action through community sponsorship to actively contribute to the reception and integration of refugees in their place of residence.
- Invest in proper preparation and guidance in collaboration with civil society.
- Make a careful match between groups and newcomers, taking into account preferences and backgrounds of both sides.
- Focus on equality and self-direction.
Rotterdam continues their collaboration with Samen Hier. In May 2022, three new resettled families arrived in the municipality to be welcomed by Samen Hier sponsor groups. We call on other Dutch municipalities to work together with residents to shape the reception, integration and participation of (resettled) refugees.