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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On October 20 and 22, JRS Europe team along with the national directors from the 22 JRS Offices around Europe held the second virtual Regional Coordination Meeting of 2020. Reconciliation The meeting opened with a reflection on reconciliation. JRS International’s expert staff members presented the work that JRS carries out worldwide in different geographic contexts about reconciliation, with an approach that prioritize the capacity building and, above of all, the recreation of relationships among the different groups.  They also invited the whole JRS European network to think about the concept’s applicability in Europe, which led to the recognition of the necessity to deconstruct racism and stereotypes within the host communities as well as among the refugees’ ones. JRS Europe’s updates on advocacy, communications and programmes The discussions moved toward another current important topic on the migration agenda: the newly proposed EU Pact on Asylum and Migration. Claudia Bonamini, JRS Europe’s Policy and Advocacy Officer, presented and analysed the legislative measures contained in the proposal, which raised several doubts and concerns about the sufficient level of protection of the refugees’ rights.  The JRS Europe’s staff members presented recent updates in their respecting working areas, such as communications and programmes, highlighting important spaces for cooperation. JRS Europe’s Regional Director showed a presentation on how to ensure the wellbeing of JRS staff during these challenging and worrying times of physical distance, which was followed by an open discussion among the participants. A special Annual General Meeting Finally, the day ended with the 2020 Annual General Meeting. Despite the impossibility to meet in person, over 150 staff members and volunteers of the JRS offices all around Europe managed to celebrate the 40 years anniversary of JRS by gathering together online, dressing in blue and sharing what JRS means for them. Download the JRS-Europe Annual Report 2019
A network of 250 researchers, journalists, activists, entrepreneurs and expert’s on migration called "GREI250" prepared an advocacy document about the EU “New European Pact on Migration and Asylum” to propose changes for the current migration situation in the EU.  Download the document
Our heartfelt condolences go to everyone affected by the massive explosions that rocked Beirut on the afternoon of 4 August. Although JRS offices in Beirut sustained damage, we are relieved to report that all staff are safe and accounted for. We continue our commitment to accompany refugees in Beirut and to respond to their needs during this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and its impact on our programs and the refugees we serve. We stand in solidarity with the people of Beirut and Lebanon during this devastating time and pray especially for those who have lost family and friends. JRS response To respond the needs of displaced Syrian households and host community members in the Bourj Hammoud neighbourhood of Beirut, JRS established the Frans van der Lugt centre where it provides a range of services including emergency and basic assistance, psychosocial support, early childhood education and learning support, and adult education. Since May 2020, JRS has also provided COVID-19 relief in the form of food, hygiene and cash assistance. Help recovery of JRS Lebanon Programmes The refugee community in Beirut has experienced significant loss. JRS offices and the Burj Hammoud social center and school were all badly damaged as a result of the explosion in Beirut this August. As an immediate emergency response to the blast, JRS plans to provide emergency assistance over an initial period of four months to affected households in both Bourj Hammoud and Karantina. The response focuses on three modalities: Food assistance: JRS prioritises the provision of in-kind food assistance to address the unmet food security needs of the most vulnerable families. Basic food baskets will be tailored to support the needs of a family of five for one month. Non-food items: Affected households who need to pay for repairs or the replacement of essential household non-food items (e.g. beds, mattresses, cookers etc.) will be provided with assistance Mental health and psychosocial support: The JRS psychologist and social workers have already been in contact with beneficiaries who had been receiving this services from JRS before the explosion took place. JRS will extend this support to up to 500 families in Bourj Hammoud and Karantina. Consider a gift so that we may respond to the needs of refugees we serve in Beirut and click here Read also: Jesuits in Beirut after the Explosion
Br. Michael Schöpf SJ has been appointed Deputy International Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and will begin his new task in Rome on January 1, 2021. He was with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Brussels for ten years, six of them as director, is chairman of the advisory board of MISEREOR, the development cooperation agency of the German Bishops' Conference, and member of the advisory board of JRS Germany. Today he works for Jesuits Worldwide, the German Jesuits' work for international solidarity. At the beginning of August you were appointed deputy director of the International Jesuit Refugee Service. You will begin your new task in January 2021 in Rome. How do you feel about the new challenge? It was a great surprise! Something familiar, familiar is coming back, now on a global level. And at the same time I feel the changes of the last years, which also lead me to new challenges: an increased polarization in public opinion or new situations like climate change, which forces people to flee. What does this appointment mean for you in an international context? Before the novitiate [the two-year probationary period when I entered the Order] I studied philosophy at the University of Munich. At 26 I went with JRS to Africa, to Kenya and later to Uganda and Rwanda. I found that I felt comfortable in a cultural context that was not mine, and so I decided to continue to look for my way in social and human rights oriented fields of work. With us Jesuits this area is called social apostolate. This path led me to JRS Europe from 2005 to 2014, including 6 years as director based in Brussels. At present I am with the Jesuit Mission and also teach in a master's course in Würzburg in the subject of migration studies. My involvement with Misereor also helps me to see our world as one in which we are all dependent on each other. The fact that I was chosen for this leadership position challenges me to apply much of what I have learned and experienced in a global context. What did you take away from your time at JRS in Brussels? During this time I learned the necessary tools and I know what it means to expand an office, to establish structures for efficient cooperation between countries and to engage in advocacy work for refugees. It was very important for me to learn what exactly happens in the individual countries in Europe, how the people who came to us live, what is needed and where the problems were. We gathered information and experience in accompanying people, and then developed concrete programmes of support. For example, we conducted a study on detention pending deportation in cooperation with the University of Vienna. We wanted to show: this is what deportation detention looks like from the perspective of the people concerned. And this must be the starting point for politics if it is to be credible - for us and for the fugitives. We ourselves are only taken seriously if we take other people seriously in their dignity. Of course, we then made concrete proposals for legislation on this basis. Were there any programs that you introduced with particular commitment? In some cases we started with very small initiatives. One of our first projects was a training concept for all those who worked in deportation prisons: for police officers, administrative officials, volunteers and church employees together. It was important for us to bring all participants into conversation with each other and to encourage them to change their perspective. Above all, however, it was also important to adopt the perspective of the detainees. Another problem we tackled at European level was that of so-called destitution. The legal situation gave the refugees neither an opportunity to work nor any social benefits. The lack of a work permit led to various problems for those concerned, such as no health insurance. They could not even take responsibility for their own lives. We noticed these problems and mobilised society in various countries. Through seminars, we have raised awareness of the effects on the lives of those affected and called for a political will to shape the situation. During your time as director of JRS Europe, were there any transnational programs outside the EU? The JRS was then active on both sides of the European external borders. One focus of our work was to develop programmes to help people on the external borders who were directly suffering from the effects of European isolation. And for us Europeans, it was about perceiving this reality as it is, not just as I like to imagine it, for my self-protection. As a European region of the JRS, we have been able to work together on the points where we can amplify the voices of those who have fled, also by accompanying people on both sides of the borders and confronting both realities. What new aspects compared to your work in Europe do you want to bring to the global level? I stopped working in Brussels 6 years ago. Now that I am returning to the work of JRS, our society is much more polarized. The concerns of refugees are perhaps immediately clearer than before. But also the need for reconciliation with them and with ourselves! For this we need a new perspective on human dignity, theirs and ours. It is time to engage in even more dialogue with the refugees. During a visit to a deportation prison a few years ago, a wave of aggression struck me. Those who were held and crammed together there also blamed me for their desperate situation, and I found myself a part of the system that kept them there. On leaving the deportation prison I met a young man who behaved differently, sitting alone and withdrawn in a quiet corner. When I approached him, he calmly said that he was preparing for an English lesson which he was about to give to others. "This is how I maintain my dignity in this situation," he explained his commitment to me. "And so I help the others at least a little, because then they might even be able to read the letters of the government that decides their fate." I could see that he had reconciled himself with his situation and that he was able to do something that would bear fruit for others and therefore for him as well. He had succeeded in creating new life. I would also like to contribute to this with my work. This experience made clear to me the power of reconciliation. What is the prerequisite for reconciliation? It requires the readiness for genuine encounter. I must be ready to let myself be changed by the encounter. To be ready to see reality from the perspective of the other person. Detention pending deportation is not an unfortunately unavoidable measure to prepare for departure. It is experienced as a fundamental intervention in a person's freedom, which brings his or her life to an indefinite halt. How would I feel if I had fled from violence and then were in prison, not knowing what to do next? How would I look into the eyes of a person who has had exactly this happen in my country? Many of our policies make such people invisible: in prisons, beyond our external borders or through forced poverty. Reconciliation can begin where I am ready to engage with this reality and allow myself to be changed through encounter. I am given a new gift to myself. What is JRS' place on the international level? JRS is an organization that can respond to need in many ways. Through concrete projects, through public relations work and also through the experience of reconciliation. We need a strong structure and many partners that enable us to help people in need professionally. Above all, however, we need people who are prepared to accompany fugitives on a daily basis and to allow them to change. This experience is open to everyone, with any religious or ideological background. It is an invitation to enter into a relationship. The JRS lives from these relationships and can only this way be a credible voice in the concert of the many organizations and associations that make up the International Refugee Regime today. People notice immediately whether an aid programme or a political demand comes from this experience. How will you organise your work in Rome? My wish is to continue to work together with the teams in Rome and in the field on what the JRS is and where our identity together with the refugees is taking us. For this it is important to constantly question how we can be present in the lives of these people. The current developments present us with new challenges: How can we deal with the consequences of the Corona pandemic in such a way that everyone can find a future perspective, including the refugees? This is about access to health care, education and means of income generation. Specifically, how can we perhaps link the emergency aid that is now needed with microcredit programmes in such a way that people can once again lead independent lives? To do this, we need local partners who have experience with the topic of "livelihoods", and the solutions will be different in each country. I see one of the main tasks of the international office of JRS as being to support the initiatives on the ground and the joint reflection of our experiences, also beyond the technical aspects. In my previous work at the Center for Global Issues in Munich, I was very much concerned with the issues of value formation and migration. I was a regular visitor to a shared accommodation for refugees. Of course, this often involved everyday conflicts and questions of daily life together. The people had very different ideas about this. This soon led to the question: What is really important to me personally? What is essential and especially valuable for me? A question that for many of us, myself included, is not easy to answer! But in the places where conflicts arise, it becomes clear that something is really at stake, because otherwise I would not insist on my position. Here the central question is: how do we want to live together? At the global level, we are currently struggling with exactly the same question: how do we want to live together, when we are beginning to realise how closely our destiny and our future are linked worldwide? In the environmental field, in the concern for vital goods, this is perhaps particularly evident. In the shaping of trade policy we are far less prepared to acknowledge that there can only be joint development. And the experience of refugees, their request to us for protection, often painfully points out to us the fundamental contradictions in our actions. This could be the starting point for a common search for life, just as the young man in deportation custody did. This is an invitation to open oneself to life and to allow it to be given beyond one's own limits! This invitation applies to the personal, social and political space. How will you bring the topic of climate-induced migration to the table? We can already see today how climate change is increasingly forcing people to adapt or look for a livelihood elsewhere. This reality will certainly become even more important in the future, triggering migration movements within a country or in an international context. It is interesting to see how the many small movements and initiatives from the environmental sector are becoming increasingly networked. It's all about the "tipping point": the point at which the many actors acquire such a weight that they have a global voice and, together, a global influence. Especially as a church organization we can learn a lot from the cooperation with these groups and the networking and perhaps go even more into the public sphere: For we too need the many movements and initiatives that, on a global level, make the situations in which refugees have to live today safer. This is also the aim of the two "Global Compact", the worldwide agreements for the protection of migrants and refugees, which are, however, so far nothing more than voluntary declarations of intent. We still have a lot of progress to make at global level, and the issue of climate-induced migration is one that makes this particularly clear. What is without alternative for you? There is no alternative to accompanying refugees, wherever they may be; and our commitment to provide concrete help for refugees and to do so in such a way that their voice and experiences can be heard in as many places as possible. I think we need a clear orientation for this today, which grows out of freedom: a freedom in which I can search for more life, for others and for myself, because I know that it was given to me myself. Accompanying fugitives can become a source of this freedom and renew it again and again. This freedom also has a direction, because it is and remains a search for life. For an organisation like the JRS, I believe this means that there is a clear anchorage and direction for the teams and the work. At the same time it is about implementing personal change in the encounter with each other, in the common search for life, also as a continuous process. We can only grow together in our humanity. What inspires you outside of your work? Cooking! Often something new, but also by recipe, when I expect many guests. It is a nice relaxation because it is very creative. What does it taste like when I do something different? What colours are on the plate? What can I make from what is currently available? It is also a nice opportunity to make others and myself happy. Here, too, you need an idea and a lot of flexibility in the implementation... Your favourite drink? Tamarind juice. This is a discovery from my time in Brazil! Wonderfully refreshing. The interview was conducted by Martina Schneider in August 2020
Faith-Based Organisations on World Refugee Day 2020.  In his 2020 Message, Pope Francis invites all people of faith and goodwill to get to know migrants and refugees and, this year in particular, those who have been forced to flee but have been unable to cross an international border, the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Pope Francis encourages all of us to “know in order to understand” -- personal knowledge is a necessary step towards appreciating the plight of others and making it our own. On World Refugee Day 2020, we wholeheartedly support the Pope’s invitation because the plight of IDPs is an often unseen tragedy that the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. Today, there are more than 50.8 million internally displaced persons who have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, violence or persecution. IDPs live in very difficult situations as they struggle to find safety within their home country or are unable to reach and then cross an international border to seek refugee status. Millions more are IDPs because of natural disasters. As humanitarian organizations and communities, we accompany, serve and involve IDPs around the world and call on policymakers and practitioners to listen to their needs and draw attention to their struggles. In this time of COVID-19, we have seen this already radically vulnerable group running increased protection risks from their own governments. The profound social and financial crisis brought about by the pandemic could result in the concerns of IDPs receding further into the background. Some of our organizations are advocating for enhanced legal protection, non-discriminatory access to services, respect for their dignity and the enactment of peace building and reconciliation programs for IDPs. By engaging with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs and the Global Protection Cluster, which have taken the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, we call for renewed attention to the plight of IDPs around the world. “It is important that internally displaced persons not be abandoned in this crisis. I call on States to exercise their sovereign responsibility to protect them based on the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and without diverting from existing delivery of humanitarian assistance”, says Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, UN Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs. Displacement is about real people, and we must always remember that Jesus was once a displaced person. It is likely that most of us have displacement of some kind in our own family histories. If we engage with present day forcibly displaced persons in our midst, we will know more about the urgency of their predicament. Opening our eyes and mind will lead to a clearer idea of what we need to do to help them. COVID-19 has stirred us to reflect on the displacement in our own hearts and on the flaws in our economic and political systems. Greed can so easily displace compassion. Deep in our hearts we know that care for others - not exploitation of them - makes us truly human. Mantras like "me and my country first" lack depth and are the products of misguided thinking. In these uncertain times, Pope Francis exhorts us to be close in order to serve. On World Refugee Day 2020, we call for transformation. We call for eyes and hearts to open to action by recognizing, contemplating, and sharing the life of refugees, IDPs, and migrants. Through them we can see more clearly the truth about ourselves, our societies, and the direction we must follow. We therefore unite our voices with Pope Francis in his 2020 Message: “It is not about statistics, it is about real people! If we encounter them, we will get to know more about them. And knowing their stories, we will be able to understand them.”   Signatories: Alboan Amala Annai Capuchin Province, Northern Tamil Nadu, India Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia Claretian Missionaries Congregation de Notre Dame of Montreal Congregations of St. Joseph Dominicans for Justice and Peace Dominican Leadership Conference EcoJesuit Entreculturas Federazione Organismi Cristiani Servizio Internazionale Volontario (FOCSIV) Fondazione Italiana di Solidarietà Marista Champagnat Fondazione Proclade Internazionale-Onlus (Claretian Presence at the UN) Fondazione Marista per la Solidarietà Internazionale (FMSI) Global Ignatian Advocacy Network for the Right to Education (GIAN Education) Global Ignatian Advocacy Network on Migration (GIAN Migration) Instituto Universitario de Estudios sobre Migraciones (IUEM), Universidad Pontificia Comillas Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Loreto Generalate International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) International Presentation Association International Union of Superiors General (UISG) Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Justice Peace Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic Medical Mission Sisters Mercy International Association: Mercy Global Action People’s Watch - India Red Jesuita con Migrantes de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RJM/LAC) Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Salesian Missions Inc. Salvatorian Office for International Aid (SOFIA) Scalabrini Missionaries School Sisters of Notre Dame Service of Documentation & Study on Global Mission (SEDOS) Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) Sisters of Charity Federation Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill Generalate Sisters of Charity US Province Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership Sisters of Mercy Brisbane, Australia Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, Society of Jesus Society of the Sacred Heart Solidaridad y Misión de los Misioneros Claretianos de América (SOMI-MICLA). Tamil Nadu Catholic Religious India (TNCRI) THALIR - Casey Capuchin Holistic Welfare Centre, India The Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul Unanima International Union of Superiors General (USG) VIVAT International World Faiths Development Dialogue Youth Action for Transformation (YATRA)   On the picture: Children living in the JRS Safe Haven play and sing during morning activities. Kakuma camp, Kenya. ©F.Lerneryd
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic there has been widespread public concern about the safety and welfare of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, in light of overcrowding and of the fact that centres are congregated settings. The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland is particularly concerned about what is going to happen to high-risk vulnerable groups living in state accommodation centres in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak there, including the elderly, immune-compromised, and those with existing health conditions. Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland, elaborates below on the plight of refugees at this time and outlines what JRS Ireland is doing to assist them. JRS Ireland addresses well-founded fears of Covid-19 in Direct Provision JRS Ireland supports and delivers services to residents in 12 direct provision centres and in 20 emergency locations. Since 11 March, in line with many frontline services, the pandemic has required JRS Ireland to move a remote model of service as face to face meeting with residents are not permitted other than in exceptional circumstances. Remote accompaniment is provided through daily calls and contact with residents. The importance of maintaining that personal connection was strikingly highlighted by a resident in a centre in the west who expressed his appreciation that JRS Ireland staff ensured he was “not forgotten” during his 14 days in self-isolation. At the present time, there are 80 state accommodation centres for asylum seekers. There are 6,300 persons in DP centres and a further 1,300 persons in emergency accommodation, a total population of 7,600. Conditions differ greatly between centres, ranging from own door accommodation to cramped rooms with 7-8 persons in bunk beds. The majority of people share bedrooms and in many case toilets and showers, add in communal eating times, these living conditions present significant challenges for social distancing to all. The fears of asylum seeker facing Covid-19 are well-founded. The Department of Justice and Equality has brought in a number of measures to address concerns for persons in Direct Provision including bringing on board an additional 650 beds to reduce overcrowding in numbers in existing centres; securing off-site self-isolation capacity and identifying and ensuring adequate ‘cocooning’ of the categories of people identified as highly vulnerable Over the past 10 days, JRS Ireland staff have supported more than 300 residents who have been transferred in a ‘thinning exercise’ to reduce overcrowding and to enable the most vulnerable to cocoon onsite. Information and advice on the duration of moves, impact on welfare and medical supports is provided to residents and their priority concerns are raised with Department officials. Throughout the crisis, JRS Ireland has been in regular contact with HSE and Department officials advocating for action and changes that can improve the safety and wellbeing of Direct Provision residents in centres. This included a policy submission to the Department of Justice offering a practical approach to identifying and gathering data on the most vulnerable groups and medical needs of residents to inform critical public health decisions concerning their welfare. I am conscious that this is an extremely difficult and uncertain time for all and especially for forcibly displaced persons JRS works with and serves throughout the world. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all share in common worry and concern about the health and safety of family members, friends, relatives and loved ones. The thousands across the globe who have died or are critically ill from the virus remain in our thoughts and prayers. JRS Ireland will remain committed to reaching out to and supporting Direct Provision residents, especially the most vulnerable, to the maximum of our ability for the duration of the crisis and beyond.