Community Refugee Support Initiative (CRSI)

An Australian coalition of refugee groups is pushing for a new community-sponsored resettlement program to help overcome the global refugee crisis.

For information about CRSI:

Policy Recommendations by the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI)
Summary by Margaret Rasa, 11 January 2019

Below is a summary of the policy recommendations being put forward by the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI).

CRSI is a partnership between the Refugee Council of Australia, Amnesty International Australia, Save the Children Australia, Rural Australians for Refugees, the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and the Welcome to Australia initiative.  These organisations have created CRSI as their vehicle for developing a vision for a bigger and better community sponsorship scheme in Australia, inspired by the Canadian example.

Short and Long Policy Briefs are both available on the CRSI website along with videos explaining the community sponsorship models in the UK and Canada.

Need for an accessible, equitable and effective Community Sponsorship Program

The Australian community has repeatedly called for a chance to be more involved in bringing refugees to Australia with 23 councils across the country signing on to support an improved and expanded community sponsorship program.  Australians are eager to open their homes, offer jobs and volunteer their time in order to help more people find safety in Australia. A new community sponsorship model is needed to enable people to come together to add to, not reduce, Australia’s resettlement places.

Our concerns about the existing Community Sponsorship Program 

Places in the CSP come from the humanitarian intake quota. Potential sponsors would like to expand Australia’s national response, not privatise it.

Costs are prohibitively high. For a family of five (2 adults and 3 dependent children), the total cost will be up to $100,000, with visa fees alone set at approximately $30,000. The cost of sponsoring an individual refugee would be up to $48,000. While many refugee families in Australia will do whatever they can to raise these funds to sponsor family members, broader community sponsors will be looking for ‘value for money’ in investing in humanitarian outcomes and will be deterred by these costs.

The CSP’s criteria (requiring refugees to have secured employment or be ‘job ready’ for employment in Australia) will exclude many refugees in most urgent need of resettlement.

The program focuses on individuals or businesses being sponsors, rather than communities coming together to sponsor refugees. By focusing on individuals, there is a risk of relationship breakdown, financial pressure and exploitation. In addition, the settlement and integration benefits of broad community engagement with a newly arrived family may be lost.

A better model for Community Sponsorship

We have developed an alternative model which draws on lessons learned from Canada’s successful community sponsorship scheme, adapted for the Australian context. The Canadian community sponsorship system has evolved over more than 40 years, and resulted in the resettlement of more than 300,000 people.

Key features of our proposed model are as follows:

Size of program: The initial program size should be 5,000 places per annum, growing to 10,000 places per annum over the next five years. These places should be additional to those provided by Australia’s humanitarian migration quota.

Eligible refugees: These should include those in most urgent need of resettlement as identified by UNHCR, as well as those seeking family reunion in Australia and those who Australian employers may wish to sponsor. Priority should be given to UNHCR-referred candidates and employability should not be part of the eligibility criteria.

Eligible sponsors: Those individuals wishing to sponsor refugees should do so as a collective ‘sponsor group’ under the auspices of a registered non-profit organisations, including incorporated community associations, local councils, religious organisations and other charities (‘Approved Community Organisations’ or ‘ACOs’). ACOs should be able to demonstrate that each sponsorship group will be capable of providing settlement support to the sponsored refugee(s) for 12 months.

–  Cost of sponsorship: The concept of community sponsorship involves the sponsoring community organisation covering the cost associated with a refugee’s initial stages of settlement, as well as airfares and medical checks prior to departure. Sponsor groups under the auspices of an ACO should be expected to raise funds to cover the costs for refugees for the first year of living in Australia. This should include costs for food and living expenses, rent and initial costs to make a new home in Australia. To ensure people do not experience hardship, sponsored refugees should have access to Centrelink (including rent assistance). However, the cost of Centrelink for one year should be covered by the sponsors. Our proposed model would reduce the cost of sponsoring a family of five from up to $100,000 (under the CSP) to between $20,000 and $50,000, depending on the extent to which income support is required in the first year after arrival. The cost of sponsoring an individual would be between $7,000 and $20,000, depending on the period of income support required. Some of these costs could be offset if sponsors are able to provide in-kind support (such as free accommodation or furniture).

Access to public services: Sponsors should be responsible for providing settlement support for the first year of settlement. However, sponsored refugees should have access to all other social services, Medicare, English language tuition and education, on par with other resettled refugees through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. These costs should be borne by the Australian Government. After one year of settlement, sponsored refugees should continue to receive social security support from the government, on par with refugees resettled through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Adoption of the above fundamental principles could allow Australia to develop a world-renowned community sponsorship program at minimal cost to the tax-payer. In doing so, Australia could enhance its humanitarian response to forced migration significantly and in a way which would facilitate the efficient and deep integration of refugees into the Australian community. It would also provide an opportunity to leverage the compassion and generosity of Australians to meet Australia’s international responsibilities to support refugees in need of protection.

Penny Vine RAR and President of Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Groups, Cathy McGowan, and Clare Cunnington, Amnesty Yackandandah

RAR, Sanctuary and Amnesty working together on the NSW-Victorian Border to lobby for reform to the Community Sponsorship Program.

RAR National believes that the present Community Sponsorship Program doesn’t serve refugees OR communities very well. We have been working with sector organisations, the Coalition and with Labor  to improve the present policy.

For more information about what we propose see CRSI.
For enquiries to Penny Vine or Marg Rasa at 

Submission to the Shergold Review – January 2019

We were all surprised when the Prime Minister  announced a Review into Humanitarian Outcomes to report in early February and especially as its focus was to include refugee settlement in rural and regional Australia.  RAR National has made a submission to the Review (attached) as have some groups. RAR National was also pleased to be invited to present in person to the Review Team to expand on the issues raised in its submission.”

Enquiries and follow-up, Marg Rasa, RAR National Vice President