The Biden Administration announced plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians.
With nearly four million Ukrainian refugees who have fled since Russia’s attack, and more fleeing every day, some have already started arriving in the U.S. through tourist visas and in other ways. They are not part of any official resettlement program as the U.S. has not yet detailed how it will bring in additional Ukrainians. Many Americans are already stepping in to help.
I wanted to share thoughts geared toward this informal, grassroots effort to support Ukrainians who are already here or who are arriving without the support of one of the professional resettlement agencies.
I’ve started getting questions like these: “I want to open up my home to Ukrainians. What do I need to think about? A family is arriving tomorrow. Can you give me advice on how I can help?”
The Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, which enables Americans to play a primary role in sponsoring an Afghan family, could be a valuable guide for those with such questions. In fact, as the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries also welcome Ukrainians through private sponsorship opportunities, this program could be an important guidepost for others too.
Starting last August, the U.S. evacuated 75,000 Afghans into eight military bases across the country. The Biden administration launched this new sponsor program, which RefugePoint has helped to build, as an emergency response to help Afghans integrate as quickly as possible.
Leading resettlement professionals, led by the Community Sponsorship Hub carefully thought through the Sponsor Circle Program, which aims at capacitating Americans to welcome an Afghan family effectively. As part of the preparation, sponsor circles need to fill out a Welcome Plan indicating that they have the resources and knowledge to support an Afghan family effectively. Here’s a link to the Welcome Plan, Sponsor Circle Guide, and Sponsor Check List—all valuable tools for those interested in welcoming refugees.
In the Welcome Plan, sponsors have to identify a lead person to help in the following categories: sponsor circle coordinator, housing, food and clothing, furniture and household goods, services and benefits, health and mental health services, legal assistance, education, language, community and cultural orientation, employment, transportation, finance, and fundraising.
While the context for supporting Afghans is specific, related to their legal status and how they came into the U.S. – which could be different for Ukrainians – this professional model could be used as a guide by those who are planning to welcome Ukrainians, or who are already doing so.
Ukrainians will start coming to the U.S. in greater numbers through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and other pathways soon. As they do, the administration must also continue to focus on other refugees who aren’t in the media spotlight. RefugePoint staff work across Africa, the Middle East, and in other locations around the world to identify refugees in urgent need of resettlement and other pathways to safety, like family reunion. The needs of people from Syria, Congo, Somalia, Myanmar, and other places – who have fled genocide and unspeakable violence – are immediate and no less compelling.
Part of the U.S. response to Ukrainians may be to expand the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans into a broader private sponsorship program that would support Ukrainians and other refugees.
In fact, the Biden Administration plans to formally launch a private sponsorship program soon. (You can find recommendations to the administration about that program here.) Such a program could enable Americans to support Ukrainians as well as other refugees around the world in the same way that we have supported Afghans through the sponsor Circle Program.
Stay tuned for more details about that program as well as specifics about the United States’ resettlement response for Ukrainians.