Context – Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Category Pilot In June 2016, Cabinet approved the piloting of the Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Category (CORS) Category as an alternative form of admission for up to 25 refugees in 2017/18.
The aims of the CORS Pilot were to:
provide an opportunity for community organisations to more actively engage in supporting successful refugee settlement
enable sponsored refugees, with the support of community organisations, to quickly become independent and self-sufficient
provide an alternative form of admission for refugees to complement New Zealand’s Refugee Quota Programme.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) undertook a process evaluation of the Pilot, based on interviews and administrative data, to inform decisions on any future intakes under the CORS Category. Forty-six people were interviewed for the evaluation: sponsored refugees (11), sponsors (16 across the four approved community organisations), other community organisations that had shown interest but either did not apply or were not selected (4), MBIE (12) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff (3). Interviews were undertaken when sponsored refugees had been in New Zealand for about three months.
The evaluation was undertaken about three months after the sponsored refugees arrived in New Zealand and assesses how well the Pilot has been implemented, what early outputs have been achieved and what improvements could be made if it were rolled out further.
The evaluation does not make any conclusions about the success of the Pilot in terms of the outcomes sought around settlement and labour market integration.
The Pilot was implemented within a relatively short timeframe. A Cabinet decision was made on the design of the Pilot in August 2017, sponsors were selected in November–December 2017 and sponsored refugees arrived in New Zealand in May and July 2018.
Four community organisations were approved as sponsors and six refugee families were selected to be sponsored through the CORS Pilot
Community organisations were invited to apply, using the Request for Application (RFA) form, to sponsor refugees under the CORS Pilot. Four community organisations, Gleniti Baptist Church (Timaru), South West Baptist Church (Christchurch), Society of St Vincent de Paul (Nelson area) and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand (Wellington), were selected as approved community organisations to sponsor refugees. They were required to enter into a Deed of Agreement with MBIE.
To be eligible to be approved for residence under the CORS Category, principal and secondary applicants were required to be mandated as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the status of refugees and to meet security, health and immigration assessments. Principal applicants were also required to demonstrate basic English language ability, meet minimum requirements around work experience or qualifications and be aged 18 to 45.
Community organisations could nominate refugees they wished to sponsor or sponsor UNHCR referred refugees from Jordan and Lebanon. In the case of UNHCR-referred refugees, UNHCR identified refugees according to Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) CORS Category criteria and then contacted refugees to tell them about the CORS Category. An interview was held with UNHCR and information was forwarded to INZ along with the Resettlement Registration form.
Refugees were required to complete an Expression of Interest form before being invited to apply for the CORS Category. Refugees were then interviewed by INZ staff as part of an existing Refugee Quota selection mission.
The CORS Pilot successfully brought communities together to support refugees
The evaluation shows that the CORS Pilot has achieved its objective of providing an opportunity for community organisations to more actively engage in supporting refugee settlement and to build communities that welcome refugees.
The evaluation clearly shows that the community organisations invested significant human resources and finance in supporting the settlement of sponsored refugees. Most of the work was undertaken by volunteers, but three community organisations also had paid staff involved in some activities.
Each sponsored refugee family was supported by six or more volunteers. These volunteers had prepared for the family’s arrival by establishing contact with them before their arrival and sourcing housing and household goods. On the family’s arrival, the volunteers helped to set up bank accounts, apply for income support and enrol children in schools. Volunteers also spent considerable time showing the sponsored refugees around their community. After these initial orientation tasks had been accomplished, sponsors linked CORS refugees to English training opportunities and encouraged them to start thinking about further training or employment.
All sponsored refugees were very positive about their relationship with their sponsors. They credited the practical and emotional support they had received from their sponsors, as what helped them most in these first few months of settlement. Sponsors also spoke about the positive impact that sponsoring had for them as a community. It brought people together with different skills, and the teams that formed around the families worked well. Sponsors also spoke about the interest and support they received from their larger communities. One of the successes of the Pilot is that it has extended the breadth of those involved in settling refugees.