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Photo: Lambeth Palace in London, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, where a Syrian family has resettled through the UK community sponsorship scheme. Photo credit: Philip Toscano/PA

This week (Monday 25 July), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, welcomed a family of Syrian refugees to his home in Lambeth Palace.

IOM has been providing assistance in the form of information sessions on Syria to help local authorities and sponsors understand Syrian culture and etiquette, the conditions facing many refugees prior to arrival in the UK, and the challenges they might face on arrival in the UK. To help prepare palace staff to understand and support the Syrian family, IOM was invited to Lambeth Palace to deliver an information session.

Archbishop Welby is the first to receive a refugee family through the UK’s community sponsorship scheme, launched by the Home Office earlier last week. IOM delivered an information session at Lambeth palace on Friday, with six palace officials and staff attending to better understand the needs and experiences of the Syrian family they had welcomed.

The community sponsorship scheme is a response to the strong interest shown by community groups like National Refugee Welcome Board, Citizens UK, and other grassroots organizations in helping Syrians resettle to the UK. In this scheme, community sponsors arrange housing, English language instruction, access to services, and job-search support for refugees.

While this may seem a daunting list of responsibilities for community groups relatively new to refugee resettlement, there is a network of support and guidance available to those interested in helping resettle refugees to the UK.

“It has been a great honour to welcome the family into Lambeth Palace,” said Mark Poulson, the Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and National Inter-Religious Advisor for the Church of England. “We have all seen the images and stories of loss and violence in Syria, and to be able to help a family rebuild what war has taken from them is an enormous privilege. The information IOM provided to us has proven immensely helpful in bringing home the realities of this family’s experiences, and better prepares us for what lies ahead as they work to regain a sense of home in the UK.”

IOM, in partnership with the Home Office, provides cultural orientation sessions for Syrian refugees prior to their arrival in the UK, in addition to health assessments and escorts to ensure they travel safely and smoothly. Cultural orientation sessions are designed to enhance the refugee integration process by providing refugees with useful information about the UK. IOM has also found, however, that integration works best when both refugees and those receiving them into the community have a good understanding of each other’s expectations, cultural differences, and practices.

IOM, in consultation with the Local Government Association and the Regional Strategic Migration Partnership, has been offering information sessions on Syria to staff from local authorities and members of host communities throughout the UK since May of this year, reaching over 350 participants eager to support refugees through mutual understanding and respect.

For more information on the Home Office’s efforts, and instructions on how to apply, please visit this page.

For further information, please contact Mallory Carlson, IOM UK, Tel: + (44) 20 7811 6049; Email: