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Private sponsorship programme (Neustart im Team)

The pilot scheme "Neustart im Team – A new start with a Team" (NesT) is a humanitarian admission programme of the German Federal Government for particularly vulnerable refugees from countries of first refuge. It is a so-called community sponsorship programme that focuses on the financial and non-material participation of civil society actors. 


From 2019 to 2023, 500 places were made available each year, but only 158 persons entered the country through this programme in total (2019: 17 people, 2020: 18 people, 2021: 83 people, 2022: 21 people and 2023: 19 people). Since January 1st, 2023, NesT has become a regular admission programme with 200 places per year. These admissions are part of the state resettlement programme and are included in the annual resettlement quotas.


For NesT, as with the resettlement programme, the UNHCR selects refugees in the respective countries of first admission. The final decision on admission lies with the host country; in Germany, the responsible federal agency is the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).


How does NesT work?

The special thing about this programme is the direct involvement of civil society once the persons admitted arrive to the local municipality. The admission of refugees is linked to mentoring groups, which provide or pay for accommodation for the first year and help those coming to settle in Germany. The refugees therefore live in the same area or at least close to the mentoring groups.

The mentoring groups consist of at least four private individuals or organisations (e.g. churches, associations, charitable foundations) who come together to form a group. A civil society contact point (zivilgesellschaftliche Kontaktstelle - ZKS) informs, trains, and advises the mentors. In Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) selects suitable groups for the refugees proposed by the UNHCR (so-called "matching").


Rights of the persons admitted 

People who come to Germany through the NesT programme receive a temporary residence permit for three years after entering the country according to section23 (4) of the Residence Act as well as a work permit. Their residence status entitles them to take part in an integration course. They are also immediately included in the social security system and are entitled to social benefits according to SGB II/XII in addition to health care, nursing insurance and compensation insurance.


They are largely on equal terms with recognised refugees, but do not receive a Blue Passport.



According to the Ministry of the Interior, the programme is intended to strengthen cooperation between the state and civil society as well as the refugees' path to social participation - however, it is questionable to what extent the state is transferring its own responsibilities to civil society. 


In principle, cooperation between the state and civil society would be welcome concerning the reception of refugees (also in other areas).  However, the problem with NesT is that it is up to the state to decide which people receive support in which areas. The ban on access for volunteers to first reception facilities, for example, and the more difficult support options for people at risk of deportation show that certain forms of civil society involvement are not desired by the state.


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