2.B Sponsors: From Mobilization to Engagement
B.5 What are sponsors' responsibilities?
(iii) How are sponsorships monitored?
How Canada Does It
At the beginning of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program, Canada created the role of “Refugee Liaison Officer” (RLO). RLOs were hired to, inter alia, monitor the refugee-sponsor relationship during the Indochinese movement in the late 1970s and 1980s. RLOs were an important component to establishing a new community sponsorship program and its associated supports where groups of individuals were resettling refugees for the first time.
Though the role of RLO no longer exists, many organizations have acquired decades of experience in sponsorship that have helped establish Canada’s program as it exists today. Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) generally monitor their Constituent Groups (CGs) while local migration offices monitor Groups of Five and Community Sponsors. SAHs may take an active role in ensuring their CGs are well prepared both before and immediately after the refugees’ arrival. If challenges arise in the sponsorship following the refugees’ arrival, sponsoring groups are encouraged to contact their SAH or local migration offices for assistance.
When Canada’s PSR program was first established to respond to the Indochinese refugee crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s, the response from the Canadian public exceeded expectations. Canada quickly realized there was a need to create supports for communities across Canada sponsoring refugees for the first time. To respond to this need, Canada established the role of “Refugee Liaison Officer” (RLO) and recruited fifty-five RLOs across the country to provide a link between federal, provincial, municipal, community agencies, private sponsors, and refugees; mobilize community-based services; disseminate information to the public; counsel sponsors; and monitor the sponsor-refugee relationship. RLOs operated out of local and/or regional migration offices. RLOs usually made at least one visit to sponsors and conducted follow-ups by telephone to ensure the sponsorship was going smoothly. During this time, RLOs found that closer monitoring was unnecessary, and instances of sponsorship breakdown were very rare.
The role of RLOs no longer exists. However, many organizations that sponsored during the PSR program’s nascent stages have through their decades of sponsorship experience helped to establish the program Canada has today. SAHs are encouraged to regularly monitor their CGs prior to the refugees’ arrival. For example, SAHs should revisit the CG’s Settlement Plan to ensure it is still viable. This is especially important if processing the sponsorship takes several months or years since the CG’s composition and capacity may have changed over time. SAHs may also pay a visit to resettled refugees’ homes to personally observe the living conditions of the refugees to see if they are suitable and appropriate. The visit may happen at the early stage of the sponsorship, once the sponsored refugees are housed in a permanent accommodation.
Following the refugees’ arrival, in communities where local migration offices are present, the local migration office may interview the refugees, engage in mediation and conflict resolutions, or take various actions to ensure sponsors carry out sponsorship duties outlined in the sponsorship undertaking and Settlement Plan. Generally, migration officers connect with sponsoring groups if challenges or potential sponsorship breakdowns come to their attention.