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."

Web site: https://jrseurope.org/

Alberto Ares SJ, from the Province of Spain, has been appointed as the new Director of JRS Europe. Alberto will take over his new position in September 2021, succeeding José Ignacio García SJ, who holds that office since the beginning of 2017. Alberto was born in a small village in the north of Spain, Veguellina de Órbigo. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1997, was ordained in 2007 and took final vows in 2014. He has a Ph.D. in International Migration and Development Cooperation from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He studied and obtained degrees in Social Ethics at Boston College, Theology in Comillas and Economics and Business Administration at the University of Valladolid. Much of his time as a Jesuit has been spent accompanying and studying migration and migrants. His work has taken him all over the world, from the United States to Brazil, Mexico to Morocco, Spain to India and El Salvador to Albania. He has been also the Social Apostolate Delegate for the Jesuits in Spain. He is currently the Director of the University Institute for Migration Studies at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas and Deputy Coordinator of the Jesuit Migrant Service in Spain, until September 2021. Alberto is also passionate about Ignatian spirituality and pastoral work with migrant communities and young people. He collaborates in two of the parishes that the Jesuits serve in Ventilla neighborhood, Madrid; and as part of that collaboration, he accompanies the Ecuadorian community "La Virgen del Quinche". He has been living in a community of hospitality. In his Jesuit community, they welcome and share life with young migrants and refugees in their process of autonomy. At the same time, the community tries to be a place of welcome for collaborators in the mission or for those who are in the process of vocational discernment. José Ignacio García SJ, whom Alberto Ares will replace, will be from September the new director of the Cristianisme i Justícia study center (Barcelona): https://www.cristianismeijusticia.net/es  
Since 2014, the Austrian Intercultural Achievement Award (IAA) has been awarded annually to innovative projects that successfully open up new avenues for intercultural dialogue. The aim is to highlight and encourage small or large-scale actions implemented throughout the world by associations or individuals to encourage dialogue between cultures and religions. Among the 300 projects submitted in 2020 through the network of Austrian embassies, the association JRS France is the winner of the Intercultural Achievement Award 2020 in the category of Sustainable Project. The JRS Youth programme - "The challenge of reciprocity: Share your talents, dare to meet! "caught the attention of the jury. This programme allows young (or not so young) asylum seekers, refugees or locals to meet and get to know each other around common and creative activities that they co-facilitate on an equal footing. The members are in turn participants or facilitators, and thus actors in a programme that they build together. Expression (theatre, dance, singing, drawing, writing), sports (football, volleyball, basketball, yoga, dance), discussion cafés, inter-religious meetings, outings to be experienced together (hikes, dinners at local homes, visits to museums, urban walks, board games) are all activities that promote and cement mutual understanding. A variety of activities in an intercultural environment In 2020, the JRS Jeunes programme organised 468 activities in 9 cities in France, involving 1338 participants of 60 different nationalities, including 740 refugees and asylum seekers. The grant given by the Republic of Austria to JRS France will be used to finance and carry out future collective and interdisciplinary actions in the framework of this intercultural project. The Austrian Ambassador Michael Linhart presented Fr Antoine Paumard, Director of JRS France, and Ms Pauline Blain, JRS Youth Officer, with the IAA 2020 Award at a small ceremony on 10 February 2021. More info: 
In From Bad to Worse: Covid-19 Aggravates Existing Gaps in the Reception of Asylum Seekers, JRS Europe presents the findings and lessons learned from a mapping on the impact of Covid-19 on the reception of asylum seekers in nine EU countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Romania, Portugal, Spain). The report criticises bad practices, highlights a few positives, and gives recommendations to national authorities and the EU institutions on what to do during and beyond the pandemic. Download the report here.
Lessons (Not) Learned. In Covid-19 and Immigration Detention: Lessons (Not) Learned, JRS Europe presents the findings and lessons learned from a mapping on the impact of Covid-19 on administrative detention in seven EU countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Malta, Romania, Portugal, Spain). The report criticizes bad practices, highlights a few positive decisions at national level, and gives recommendations to national authorities and the EU institutions on what to do during and beyond the pandemic. Download the report
London-based charity, the Jesuit Refugee Service UK has renewed its condemnation of the use of disused barracks as asylum accommodation in the wake of a fire at Napier Barracks, which has led to a lack of electricity and hot water. It was rapidly followed by revelations that Home Office officials intentionally deployed substandard asylum accommodation to manage public opinion.  Unequal Treatment In considering the use of barracks as asylum accommodation, the Home Office stated that destitute people seeking asylum were “not analogous” to British citizens and other permanent residents in need of state welfare assistance concluding that “less generous” support for people seeking asylum was “justified by the need to control immigration”, while better accommodation “could undermine public confidence in the asylum system”. These events follow a COVID-19 outbreak at Napier barracks the week before last, where it has been reported that 120 people have tested positive. Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, said “People who have been forced to flee their homes have been subjected to unsafe, undignified, and inhumane conditions in barracks accommodation. We have sometimes been told that this is an emergency measure. Now, we see compelling evidence that it is intentionally cruel and part of a wider strategy: the government is risking the lives of the most vulnerable in order to make a political point. This gratuitous brutality is an insult to the British public whose decency and care for those in need runs a good deal deeper than Ministers’ base instincts.” Continuous Support JRS UK’s detention outreach team is providing phone support to individuals accommodated at Napier barracks, and has witnessed a serious deterioration in the mental health of some individuals over their time there. Barracks accommodation both at Napier in Folkestone and at Penally in Pembrokeshire has been widely criticised as inhumane, with an inadequate supply of food and blankets and severely limited access to medical care. In November, a group of leading clinical experts noted the high risk of infection at the sites, where social distancing is impossible. They also noted that highly controlling regimes at the sites – including use of curfews – meant they resembled “open prisons” analogous to immigration detention. Both sites have regularly encountered protests by fascists who have sometimes sought to prevent NGOs and others from passing basic necessities to residents. JRS UK is aware of credible reports that this weekend, police and onsite managers also turned away people trying to deliver food and blankets. A situation overlooked by the Government The government is legally obliged to provide accommodation to people who would otherwise be destitute while their asylum claims are heard. People seeking asylum are banned from working and cannot access mainstream benefits, so are frequently forced to rely on such asylum support. The use of the barracks sits within a pattern of deliberately harsh asylum policies: the government has a policy of creating ‘hostile environment’ for people refused asylum and others without immigration documents, and bans people seeking asylum from working, partly on the dubious basis that allowing them to do so would act as a ‘pull-factor’ to others. In recent years, government ministers have repeatedly referred to detention as a ‘deterrent’ against immigration infractions. JRS UK’s latest report, ‘Detained and Dehumanised: The impact of immigration detention’ found that the real effect of the Home Office policy of immigration detention in prison-like conditions, is that it fosters a culture of death, self-harm and ongoing mental and physical trauma leaving those who are detained, or threatened by the prospect of detention, dehumanised. Jesuits in Britain
Systemic solutions and meaningful EU support, including safe pathways, could prevent recurring humanitarian emergencies. Hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers remain abandoned in northwest Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in the wasteland that hosted camp Lipa, erected last year as a temporary accommodation during COVID-19 pandemic and closed down on December 23. For the third week, they have been sleeping under open sky with sub-zero temperatures. Due to the inability of the politicians at all levels of government in the country to reach an agreement, all attempts to relocate the Lipa residents to winter-ready centres elsewhere in BiH have failed. Leading human rights organizations urge the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure immediate humanitarian support, including suitable shelter and assistance, to migrants and asylum-seekers on its territory. Read the statement of 4 NGO’s  (Refugee Rights Europe, Amnesty International, JRS-Europe and Médecins du monde): https://jrseurope.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2021/01/Statement-1.pdf Picture: Bira camp in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo: Kristof Holvenyi/JRS Europe).