'We feel safe and very happy here': Communities asked to sponsor refugee families in pilot programme

Lorca Fakir, 8, with Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton TD, and her parents Angham Younes and Zouheir Fakir. Picture: Maxwell Photography

Up to 50 refugees will be integrated into Irish communities by September as part of a new programme.

The Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) scheme aims to provide a sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution.

The first family to arrive as part of the initiative came from Syria to Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

Angham Younes moved to the town with her husband, Zouheri Fakir, and their eight-year-old daughter Lorca in December of last year.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Ms Younes said that the day after they arrived "a friend of the community took us around Dunshaughlin and I was sort of shocked because people on the street will smile to you so easily. We're not used to that."

She said that they have found it easy to make friends with people because they feel so comfortable there.

We feel safe and very happy here.

Speaking in Dunshaughlin today after meeting with the family and members of the community sponsorship group, Minister David Stanton said that the community has "shown great commitment to the family and I have been very impressed with the supports they have provided.

"Meeting the family today and hearing of their experiences in Syria is a timely reminder of the need to find alternative pathways for admission, like community sponsorship, for those who have lost everything and need our help to start again in a safe and supportive community environment."

The programme will see private citizens and community-based organisations provide direct support to a refugee family that has been invited to settle in their locality.

The Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration is inviting members of the public to "extend the hand of friendship to a refugee family".

Under the programme, private citizens and community-based organisations will provide direct support to a refugee family that have been invited to live in their locality.

Involved community groups will help the family in accessing services and provide the supports and friendship necessary to help them to find a safe and welcoming place in the community.

Training and support will be provided for participating communities.

Minister Stanton has said that his goal under the pilot phase of the programme is to have 10 communities participating.

The Irish Red Cross welcomed the announcement of the initiative this morning.

The Irish Red Cross, in cooperation with the Irish Refugee Protection Programme at the Department of Justice and Equality, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), UNHCR, Nasc, the Irish Refugee Council and Amnesty International Ireland have developed the Irish model of Community Sponsorship over the last 18 months.

Full details of the Community Sponsorship Ireland initiative and the application form for communities wishing to apply can be found here.

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