Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and others who are forcibly displaced.  

JRS Europe advocates for the respectful and fair treatment of all migrants affected by European policy, and defends their access to procedures that guarantee the basic rights enshrined in international law. A regional office based in Brussels advocates at European Union level and ensures that policymakers hear refugees’ voices.

The regional office also facilitates a network of JRS offices through common planning and project work. In 12 countries across Europe, as well as in Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo, JRS gives direct support to forced migrants and refugees, especially those who are forgotten and in most urgent need. JRS Europe has several projects to assist asylum seekers and other forced migrants in detention as well as community initiatives promoting hospitality and social inclusion. 

JRS Europe also works to foster a culture of openness, embodied by hospitality. This is one of our more urgent tasks because hospitality is a value that is being eroded in today’s world where many are so fearful of the 'other'. Writing to JRS on its 30th anniversary, the Jesuit Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, said: "JRS, in serving refugees, is Gospel hospitality in action; but, perhaps, we can ask how we may, creatively, effectively and positively, influence the closed and unwelcoming values of the cultures in which we work."

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Beginning of April, JRS France held its National Meeting in Paris during two days.  It was also the occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the French organization. About 120 JRS France members came from all over the country for the occasion. Saturday, the program included a conference by Michel Agier on the different practices of Hospitality, as well as several workshops on hot topics such as the Dublin regulation, the ACAT informative campaign on refugees or specific JRS France on-going projects. The day ended with a General Meeting and a festive birthday dinner. Sunday, Jean-Marie Carrière, founder of JRS France, was the keynote speaker on how the organization started back in 2007. To conclude the day, a good number of the 31 regional branches were present and took part in a round-table discussion about their different programs and future projects. These days helped us to strengthen our network and share a common spirit of friendship with the refugees
Brussels, 20 January 2017 – JRS Europe is pleased to present Jose Ignacio Garcia, SJ, as the new Regional Director. He takes up the reins from Jean-Marie Carriere, SJ. Garcia takes up the leadership of JRS in Europe with a wealth of European affairs experience behind him. From 2009 to 2016 he led the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) in Brussels conducting research and advocacy on migration, climate change and social justice. During this time Garcia also coordinated work of the Jesuit Social Ministry in Europe, assisting and promoting the many Jesuit charities and organisations seeking to help vulnerable and marginalized people. “We’re facing a double challenge at the moment. First, as we have seen over the last two years, increasing numbers of people are seeking protection in Europe and we need to increase our capacities and resources accordingly. Second, there is a rising negative public opinion against newcomers and foreigners. We need to boost our awareness raising capabilities and ability to shape political discourse. At the same time, we acknowledge the strong response from civil society and many individuals,” says Garcia. Speaking about the current work of JRS in Europe, Garcia says: “I appreciate very much the work of so many people in the field committed to refugees and migrants.” “We feel strongly supported by Pope Francis and we feel his message is very focused, as in his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We appreciate his work in setting up new structures within the Church to help migrants and refugees.” Thanking his predecessor in the post, Garcia says: “My dream is to keep the same leadership and to continue building from the same lines and vision that Jean-Marie brought to JRS and to continue strengthening the path he identified in the midst of a very turbulent time for refugees in Europe. I would like to express my gratitude for the work, cohesion and vision that Jean-Marie brought and look forward to strengthening our common work across the 18-plus JRS country offices in Europe.” It is not the first time that Garcia has worked with JRS. From 1992 to 1994 he was part of the JRS operation in Malawi and at the end of the civil war in Mozambique. The experience of helping refugees in Africa left a lasting impression: “JRS one day, JRS forever,” says Garcia with a smile.
12 February 2017 marks the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. On this occasion, Entreculturas and the Jesuit Refugee Service teamed up with the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network to pray and rally for the end of the use of child soldiers. More than 230 million children around the world live in areas affected by armed conflict. Although there is no accurate data on the total number of child soldiers, it is estimated that there are about 250,000. According to the UN, 17 countries and territories are responsible for this human rights violation. Every month, Pope Francis entrusts intentions to his World Prayer Network, focusing on social challenges and the Church's mission. His monthly prayer intention through The Pope's Video is a worldwide call to turn prayer into "concrete gestures". Throughout the month of December, the Pope invited us to pray and mobilize ourselves for the cause of child soldiers and children forced to participate in violence. The only weapon for boys and girls should be education. Coinciding with the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network invites us to support the projects of Entreculturas and the Jesuit Refugee Service to ensure that these children do not spend their childhood on a battlefield. People are also encouraged to support Pope Francis' initiative by signing the related petition. The campaign has been launched in both English and Spanish and has been shared in more than 20 countries. More info: Picture slider homepage: National Speakers Bureau, Canada
The CEAS reform package: destroying trust in refugees and between Member States. JRS-Europe published "Working papers 6" commenting he reform proposals for the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). “We are very concerned that if all these proposals go through, they will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. The support offered to children travelling alone, pregnant women and separated families would be radically reduced rather than increased,” said JRS Europe regional director, Jose Ignacio Garcia, SJ. “We are calling on the EU institutions to re-think the impact that these proposals will have and to strive to improve solidarity with refugees in Europe,” he concludes. JRS Europe opens the paper with detailed recommendations, grouped into four main areas: 1. Stop the externalisation of protection responsibilities 2. Commit to greater solidarity with refugees and between Member States 3. Prioritise social inclusion and integration of forced migrants in European societies 4. Abstain from the disproportionate and excessive use of detention The main body of the document presents a detailed policy analysis of the proposals and highlights the following key concerns. Opening the hospital door with the safety chain on: following the so-called success of the EU-Turkey deal, instead of creating more safe pathways (e.g. humanitarian visas, liberalisation of family reunification etc.) to complement a functioning CEAS, ever more restrictive policies for accessing EU territory have been introduced. Even more forced migrants will die in the Mediterranean and on dangerous journeys in their attempts to reach safety. Children travelling alone will be hit the hardest: if passed the proposals will put children more at risk of detention, more at risk of forced transfer under Dublin and also more at risk of forced finger printing under EURODAC – the minimum age for this has been lowered from 14 to just 6 years old. Families will be kept apart: the right to family life as enshrined in the EU Charter and the ECHR will be undermined. Compulsory status reviews jeopardise education and employment opportunities, hampering the ability of families to maintain their dignity and provide a healthy and secure environment for children. The risks of destitution and social exclusion are increased. The use of compulsory admissibility criteria under Dublin will in many cases prevent asylum seekers from reuniting with family members already residing in other Member States. Increasing the number of hurdles protection-seekers must jump: the proposals formalise the problematic concepts ‘first country of asylum’, ‘safe third country’, ‘internal protection’. Forced migrants must pass initial screening tests before they are even allowed to lodge an application for international protection. We’ll protect you, but only for a while: the introduction of compulsory status reviews undermines the security and permanency of status for beneficiaries of international protection. This approach is entirely at odds with the levels of displacement that the world is currently facing. It will simply cripple the ability of refugees to build new and successful lives within the EU. Increasing rather than reducing detention: the legislation potentially creates more circumstances in which asylum seekers could be detained, such as if they deny to provide their fingerprints. Detention can cause long-lasting psychological damage and JRS Europe continues to strongly advocate against its widespread use by Member States. Alternatives to detention must be used in order to reduce human suffering. In conclusion the paper finds that the reform package represents a harmonisation down rather than up of protection standards in the EU. As witnessed in 2015 and 2016, restrictive measures fail both forced migrants and at achieving solidarity amongst Member States. Another race to the bottom would be highly dangerous in all respects. Download Working Paper 6 Picture: Syrian refugees walk to school at a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. The country currently hosts over 1 million refugees. The EU can and should do more to take care of the forcibly displaced, thereby relieving pressure on other countries (Photo: Kristof Holvenyi / JRS MENA).
JRS France, ACAT and the United Protestant Church of France, joined forces for a campaign entitled "Accueil de l'étranger" (“Welcoming the foreigner”). Launched at the end of 2016, the campaign is a response to the disturbing rise in hate speechc and rejection of the other. Its objective is to provide information and encourage a reflection on both current and past migratory realities, as well as our legal and moral responsibilities towards those whom we call ‘foreigners’, ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’. The campaign is also an invitation to each and every one of us to mobilize ourselves in favour of reception, engage our political leaders on the matter and resist the temptation of being self-centered. The United Protestant Church of France  (EPUF) and the ACAT (Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture) are launching a joint campaign to attract the locally elected represenatives’ attention and raise awareness among local communities about being ready to welcome those who knock at their door. The idea is to resist the populist rhetoric on foreigners. Be part of this campaign by: Offering training at local job centres Raising awareness to change mentalities Act effectively with authorities to have an impact at the local level Keep an eye on the lastest developments in the presidential and legislative elections For more information: Discover the reception practices found accross Europe as part of the ‘I Get You’ campaign: Learn from the experiences of JRS France => discover Welcome to France! Read the campaign guide prepared by our partner ACAT Learn more about the issue through the educational package "Accueil de l'étranger" prepared by ACAT Visit EPUF’s blog: Take a look at the ‘Replies to Concerns’ section below or  download it here Educational File - Replies to Concerns Read more publications on Calaméo ACAT also offers an Awareness Kit that includes: A turnkey handbook to follow the election campaign "  Watching the Election Candidates" Advice to meet your local elected representatives thanks to the activity sheet  "Meet an elected official"
The desire to build together a community of life. Father General has called on us all to redouble our efforts to welcome those who suffer because of the need to migrate and to work together to build ‘a community of life’. Speaking in Rome before the World Day of Refugees and Migrants (Sunday), Fr Arturo Sosa SJ was addressing refugees, volunteers and staff from the Centro Astalli, the headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy. He urged all who support refugees and migrants to put pressure on governments, especially in Europe, to create channels that will give safe and legal access to children and adolescents forced to abandon their homes, their countries and often even their families, in order that they can make a future elsewhere. At the meeting at the Church of Gesù in Rome on Friday, Fr General said he was both happy and moved to have been able to listen to refugees’ testimonies and to share reflection and prayer with them. “This moment presents an important invitation to the Society of Jesus to accompany, with its few resources, and to share in the anxieties and hopes of the refugees here in Italy and everywhere in the world,” he said. Fr General explained that he had personally experienced similar situations to the refugees who gave their testimonies on Friday, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, where he lived for ten years before being called to Rome. “I met entire families that had been forced to abandon everything to save lives threatened by injustice and violence that has taken hold of our societies. I met children and young people who had been forced to become soldiers and to participate in wars so far away from their dreams, thoughts and desires.” However, Fr General Sosa also spoke of people’s generosity - families who have welcomed as brothers and sisters people in search of a new life, as well as schools, teachers and Christian communities willing to lend a hand to those who arrive. He said it was necessary to promote citizens' movements that put pressure on States and the governments of Europe and other parts of the world to create safe and legal channels, especially for children and adolescents. “The absence of these channels adds new dangers to the path of migrants and increases the injustice suffered by those who have had to flee their homeland," he told the congregation at the Gesù. “The absence of adequate protection, the difficulty of access to humanitarian visas and efficient policies of social inclusion nourishes one of the greatest scourges of humanity in our times: human trafficking.” Like pieces of wood that need to live "It means a lot to me that Pope Francis decided to dedicate this day to refugee children" says Aziz, a 20-year-old refugee from Guinea. He had to leave his country when he was 16 years old, and travelled across Mali, then Niger, Libya and finally Italy. Aziz and other four young refugees from Afghanistan, Albania, Syria and Ethiopia shared their moving testimonies. All of them were minors when they arrived in Italy. "My father was a wood carver in Aleppo; he was able to create wonderful objects from any shapeless pieces of wood. His job was to give shape to ideas. Today, we are like pieces of wood that need to come alive" says Mirvat, a refugee from Syria. The neighborhood where she spent her childhood no longer exists. "Those who destroyed Aleppo have also destroyed the dreams, the memories, the plans and the future of a whole generation of young people". Fr General was greeted at the Gesù by Fr Camillo Ripamonti SJ, the President of the Centro Astalli, who reminded those gathered that the message of Pope Francis for this day focuses this year on child migrants. “The Pope points out that among migrants, the children are the most vulnerable group,” he said, “because … they are invisible and voiceless. And this reminds us of the need to protect them, to integrate them, and for them to be able to look to the future. Yes, dear Father Arturo, yet we continue to ignore this responsibility. We have not protected them; we have allowed them to die by their hundreds in the sea on long and dangerous crossings in the Mediterranean; and many of those who came got lost (in the) news, perhaps, and (have become) prisoners or victims of trafficking. But not only that: we are not even integrating as we should those who live with us.” He appealed for action at the international level, to work for the resolution of conflicts and serious investments in the development of the many young foreigners who need reasons for hope and seeds for a future of peace and reconciliation. A message of peace and reconciliation During the public event, ‘Refugee Youth: hope for a future of peace’, 20 refugees and migrants of various nationalities delivered a message of peace for the world that they had formulated in their original languages. Five boys and girls who had arrived in Italy as minors fleeing from Guinea, Afghanistan, Albania, Syria and Ethiopia shared their testimonies. And Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ was presented by refugees with an icon. Entitled 'foreigners and itinerant men', it depicts the three kings, the Magi who followed the star in search of the baby Jesus. The gathering concluded with a Prayer for Refugees, in which Fr General prayed: “Today we are here united by the desire to build together a community of life. O God, feed this desire of ours. In our world, we have a desperate need of peace and reconciliation … We are aware that we need your imagination, Your creative, non-violent energy. Our languages ​​are different and many and sometimes we do not understand those who are different from us, misinterpreting and distorting their words and gestures. Teach us the confidence that is at the beginning of every fruitful relationship and every walk of peace. We are here with all that we are: with the diversity of our religions and our cultures, with the fragility of our personal histories, our ways of doing and to share small companies of life. All we are is what we offer you.”   Fr General's address at the meeting 'Refugee Youth: hope for a future of peace' is available on the website of the Jesuit Curia in Rome. You can read more on the JRS website and more photos is available on the Centro Astalli website.