Pilot scheme will allow American citizens to sponsor refugees and help them settle into their communities
Maya YangFri 20 Jan 2023
The US state department has announced a new refugee program under which ordinary Americans can financially assist and sponsor refugees seeking resettlement.
On Thursday, the state department revealed the Welcome Corps, a pilot program which will seek to mobilize 10,000 Americans as private sponsors for at least 5,000 refugees in its first year.
“The Welcome Corps is a new service opportunity for Americans to welcome refugees seeking freedom and safety and, in turn, make a difference in their own communities,” the program’s website said.
“Together, sponsor groups welcome refugee newcomers by securing and preparing initial housing, greeting refugee newcomers at the airport, enrolling children in school, and helping adults to find employment.”
Under the program, all refugees admitted through the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), including those supported via Welcome Corps, will undergo extensive security vetting and a health screening conducted by the federal government. Only those cleared will be approved for settlement in the US.
According to the program, the majority of refugees who will be welcomed by private sponsors in Welcome Corps’s first months will be from sub-Saharan Africa, where “they have been waiting for years for a durable solution”.
Both American citizens and permanent residents can form Private Sponsor Groups (PSGs). Each group must have at least five members who are above 18 years old and who live in or near the same community. Sponsors are required to raise at least $2,275 for each refugee, which will be used for their initial basic needs until the refugee finds employment.
PSGs are not required to identify a particular refugee to sponsor. Instead, the Welcome Corps will match sponsors to selected refugees. In mid-2023, the program will expand to allow private sponsors to identify refugees they wish to sponsor and also refer applicants to the USRAP for consideration.
In addition to the minimum financial commitment, PSGs commit to providing “welcoming services” to refugees for their first 90 days in the community, including housing, basic needs and connections to healthcare, education and employment services.
Welcome Corps will provide PSGS with resources such as a budget template, fundraising support and an arrival checklist.
Despite the state department describing the Welcome Corps as “the boldest innovation in refugee settlement in four decades”, many developing countries have been far more generous than the US in admitting refugees.
Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, at 3.7 million. Colombia is second, with more than 2.5 million. Pakistan and Uganda each host more than 1 million refugees, according to the United Nations.
In total, at least 103 million people are currently forcibly displaced.