Study of Angela Waz – an MA candidate at the University of Toronto and intern at Center for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria Her research focuses on the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as the radical-right governments of Poland and Hungary and their negative impact on relocation quotas for migrants set by the EU.
Private sponsorship programs have a great history of success in Canada and they are now being introduced to European Union member-states in-light of the influx of refugees arriving in the EU since 2015. Private sponsorship is essential in expanding legal pathways for integration, both economically, socially, and governmentally. Since private sponsorship is a relatively new idea in Europe there are several different approaches taken under the umbrella of private sponsorship.. While the programs enacted in the EU are a great first step there are many questions to be addressed for states trying to implement such programs, one of the most pertinent questions is funding, whether there is additional funding from the EU to introduce or expand private sponsorship programs.
The European Union introduced the Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund (AMIF) in 2014 to deal with the higher number of asylum-seekers entering Europe.. AMIF was set up as a temporary program from 2014-2020 and received a total of 3.137 billion Euros for the seven-year program. The funds were granted from the EU to AMIF in order to co-finance private sponsorship and integration programs in member-states. All EU states, except Denmark, participated in the implementation of the Fund. . Since implementing a private sponsorship program as an alternative legal pathway is costly for states, AMIF co-financed the development or expansion of private sponsorship programs in member-states. Although funding through AMIF is no longer available as the project was closed in 2020 there are other options for states just now trying to implement more legal pathways for refugee resettlement. However, due to COVID-19 and the immediate need for states access to recovery funding obtaining additional funding for migration assistance may be difficult.
The New Pact on Migration in the European Union includes two schemes of resettlement. The second scheme of resettlement aims to resettle refugees into countries who have not fulfilled their commitments and provides funding for these commitments to be fulfilled. It seems that Bulgaria has committed to the grant however, it received no calls for proposals. In 2020, the European Commission affirmed their commitment to supporting national sponsorship schemes through funding, capacity-building and knowledge sharing. Once again, the deadline for these applications was January 30, 2020. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic occurring shortly after, experts have stated that refugee relocation programs such as funding for resettlement and community sponsorship may not be prioritized in the near future. In April 2020, the European Commission encouraged individual member-states to continue developing sponsorship programs for future hosting availability.
Most recently in March 2021, the Commission and the European Union Committee of the regions launched a new partnership to increase cooperation and support for EU cities, regions, and rural areas in integrating arriving refugees. The partnerships goal is to build more capacity for hosting refugees as well as promote the exchange of experiences in the areas of integration and community sponsorship. The new partnership was announced in the Commission action plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2027 and was adopted on November 24, 2020. The partnership is part of the Cities and Regions for Integration Initiative. The Initiative provides a political platform for European mayors and regional leaders to share information and showcase positive examples of integration and inclusion. While the focus of the new initiative is to support relocation of migrants who are already present in the EU, the concept can also be applied for community sponsorship. The EU has been asked to provide further funding through AMIF to municipalities and regions receiving asylum-seekers. There is a possibility for further funding being provided through the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. However, as previously mentioned due to COVID-19, a lot of the funding work has been put on pause for such programs. It would be best to continue looking into AMIF, the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund to view further funding options in the near future.