Refugees given new hope with launch of US sponsorship scheme

Refugees given new hope with launch of US sponsorship scheme

The hundreds of Iranian Christian refugees stuck in countries like Turkey have been given fresh hope with the launch of a new sponsorship scheme in the US.

Under the scheme, dubbed the “Welcome Corps” by the US State Department, US citizens or permanent residents will be able, in groups of at least five, to sponsor refugees for the first three months of their stay in the US.

To do so, the groups will need to provide at least $2,275 per individual sponsored – groups are able to sponsor multiple individuals – and show that they have a “support plan” in place.

The scheme is similar to the one already in place in Canada, and will provide Iranian Christian refugees, and many others, with renewed hope of resettlement after years of hopelessness.

Article18 has reported on numerous occasions how many Iranian Christians have been stuck in countries like Turkey for in some cases up to a decade, seeking asylum but finding nowhere willing or able to take them.

Last week, we reported that the situation for many refugees in Turkey, specifically, is becoming increasingly perilous, with anti-refugee sentiment rising, and deportations on the rise.

Resettlement of refugees to the US and many other Western countries has reduced dramatically since 2016. 

Kate Meyer, from the International Refugee Assistance Project, last week explained during a webinar hosted by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom how one group of nearly 100 Iranian asylum-seekers found themselves stuck in Vienna, after a sudden shift in the US approach to refugees.

Among this group, Ms Meyer highlighted the case of one Iranian Christian woman, who testified: “The time that we spent waiting in Vienna – six years in total – was very painful. Our short visa to Austria expired, leaving us without permission to work, proper health insurance, or source of financial support for ourselves and our daughter. We were warned to stay at home or risk being arrested and deported to Iran, and had to apply for asylum in Austria after the United States turned its back on us.”

This woman, whose names was kept anonymous, was finally reunited with her parents in the US in time for Christmas last month, but as with so many others, the years of waiting took their toll.

“Now that we are together again, it is bittersweet to reflect on what we lost during the years apart,” she said. “My parents have aged, and I am overcome with emotion when I think of the hardships they endured without us to support them. I had secured a job in the United States when I was first scheduled to travel, and while I kept the offer alive for some time afterwards eventually it disappeared. We feel very happy to be reunited but the trauma and despair of our journey remains with all of us who were stranded for so long.”

For the many other refugees with similar stories, schemes like the Welcome Corps provide much-needed new hope.

Please email us at if you would like to find out more about how, whether or not you live in the US, you can help Iranian Christian refugees find a new home.

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