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: http://www.jrseurope.org/

JRS European regional coordination meeting. Brussels, 25 October 2018 – This week JRS Europe organised the bi-annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM) in Brussels. For two days, directors from 17 national offices in Europe came together with the JRS Europe team to strengthen capacities to fulfil our mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. “The RCM is an intense time for the national directors and the staff of the Regional Office. It is a time for planning and evaluation of the common projects and activities, but overall, it is a time to share a common vision built from the diversity of our engagements at the local level. The daily fieldwork conducted by staff and volunteers, together with the lived experience of refugees, constitutes the basis of our reflection. The closer our analysis is to reality, the more successful our programs will be. This sense of proximity to the concrete life is challenged by an ambitious vision driven by high ethical principles. Refugees don’t deserve less from us,” said JRS Europe Director Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ after the meeting. JRS Europe is working on a Strategic Framework for the region, and the RCM was an opportunity to work on common programmatic areas and guidelines on how to work better together. The programme for the meeting included key updates from each country, as well as advocacy sessions around private sponsorship and the sharing of responsibilities between Member States of the European Union. The directors received an update on several projects that are coming to an end in the next months, such as Protection at External Borders and Communities of Hospitality. The sessions also included a presentation on new projects that will be implemented in 2019. Furthermore, the newly appointed Fundraising Officer of JRS Europe, Christoph Klotz, conducted a conversation on funding. Sara Garcia, Communications Officer of JRS Europe, presented the steps we are taking to develop a Communications Strategy for JRS Europe. The new JRS Serbia Director, Violeta Markovic, said “What is useful about coming to the RCM is the networking and connecting and also to know that my office is a part of something bigger.” The next RCM will take place in Barcelona in April 2019.
After six years of serving the needs of the displaced people in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war, and under the title, “Bread and Salt”, JRS Syria organized a farewell celebration on the 15th September, at the Franciscan convent. Around three hundred people were invited, fifty of whom were from the sponsors and financiers who had accompanied the JRS kitchen throughout its journey, even with small steps, and those who were the fundamental supporters and partners in the distribution points for the daily cooked meals. The rest were invitees from among the JRS volunteers from all sections. The celebration included speeches by Jesuit Fathers, the Aleppo JRS Project Director and the country JRS Project Director from Damascus, in addition to the personal sharing of an experience by one of the kitchen volunteers about his work in the cooking tent. There was also the projection of two videos prepared by our JRS media designer in Aleppo. The first one included testimonies by some beneficiaries and JRS kitchen volunteers (management team and workers). The second was a documentary of the kitchen’s journey during the past six years, explaining the service offered, the areas that had been served by JRS, the quantity food provided step by step and the improvement in the work. A tour followed for all the attendees around the cooking tent, organized by the Damascus and Aleppo media team. This tour had quite an emotional impact on the visitors who expressed their gratitude for all the efforts which had been made under the tent to serve thousands of needy displaced people in Aleppo. It was also an emotional event for the volunteers who had considered this tent as a home for them, and this home was bringing them together each day from all walks of life, it was the place the had witnessed their worries and their gladness, their joys and their sadness.
End of September Advocacy and Communications Officers of JRS in Europe met in Brussels to reinforce our work to serve, accompany and advocate for refugees. On the photo the group round José Ignacio Garcia, director JRS-Europe, in the garden of the Chant d'oiseau meeting centre.
Fr. Claus Pfuff is the new Country Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Germany. With a celebration on June 11 in Berlin, he succeeded Fr. Frido Pflüger (71) as JRS Director. Pfuff, who originally is from Weilheim (Bavaria), was a school chaplain at the Jesuit High School Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin. Frido Pflüger will head the JRS in Uganda. Before moving to Berlin in 2012, he was JRS Regional Director for East Africa. In Germany, JRS provides pastoral care and legal assistance for detainees pending deportation and immigrants without residence permit. Besides the office in Berlin staff members are working in accommodation centres in Munich and Essen. Like his predecessor, Pfuff represents the Archdiocese of Berlin in the hardship commission for the Berlin State and in the Forum Deportation Monitoring at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Before entering the Society in 2009, as priest with therapeutic training Pfuff helped to build up AIDS counselling in the diocese of Augsburg. As school chaplain at the Canisius-Kolleg he got to know their situation in „Welcome Classes“ for children of migrants and refugees. At the handover ceremony, Dominik Bartsch, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Germany, called for deportations to be carried out "in safety and dignity". So he turned against deportations, which take place early in the morning because of the "surprise effect". How a state treats those affected makes its value system clear. Deportation should only be the „ultima ratio“ of the Immigration Controlling Policies. Stefan Dybowski, responsible for religious institutes of the Archdiocese of Berlin, emphasized that Pflüger had always brought the individual destiny of people seeking help to the fore. The former JRS director and predecessor of Pflüger, Fr. Martin Stark, assured that in addition to the comprehensive educational work in schools and universities, the Jesuits will continue to have the greatest care for refugees and migrants. Picture: Fr. Claus Pfuff receives an Ethiopian cross from Fr. Frido Pflüger
“Why do Christians around the world prefer the narrative of populist nationalism and political exclusion to the message of the Gospel?” was the question posed by expert on the theology of migration, Dr Joshua Ralston, at a conference at Heythrop College to mark World Refugee Day. JRS UK and the Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society hosted Refugee Stories: Changing the Narrative - the fruits of a collaboration between academics working in theology and related disciplines, practitioners serving refugees, and – most importantly – refugees themselves. Dr Sophie Cartwright, JRS UK Policy Officer, explained that the aim was to put the voices of refugees at the centre of the current narratives about the “migrant crisis” and to re-shape the conversation: “we wanted to ground this project in the expertise of refugees [rather than just] gather raw data for academics to fashion into theology and ethics. While academe has something to bring, we learn more from refugees than they do from us.”  Dr Nick Austin SJ agreed: “the academic theoretician needs to think about people and to encounter them… not speak on behalf of refugees because they can speak for themselves.” Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, gave the first paper, in which she described the UK government’s hostile environment policy and how it actively works against the asylum seeker telling his or her story in a coherent way. She explained how Home Office caseworkers and legal aid lawyers do not have the time or training to listen to and understand how to interpret these stories. Tribunals tend to default to suspicion, disbelief, and rejection. The asylum system relentlessly pushes asylum seekers onto the wrong side of the law. Professor David Herd of Kent University, co-founder of Refugee Tales, went further, describing in his paper how talking and listening creates community – “storytelling is integral to human existence..by sharing [the story] it becomes the responsibility of the community who hears it and the detainee becomes a member of the community.”  He proposed that one purpose of the 2016 Immigration Act is to disrupt the telling of stories.  This, along with the well-established practice of dispersal and denial of the right to work or to study, keeps refugees outside the community, outside the law, and enables popular opinion to deny their human dignity. Dr Ralston’s answer is that narrative has been seized by men of power, and that the focus needs to move back to innate human dignity, as reiterated by Christ’s own storytelling: “Theologically, human value is not determined by law; we are claimed as brothers and sisters by Jesus of Nazareth who was himself tried and found guilty before the law.” Refugee voices were also heard during the day: JRS showed a video featuring the stories of  four people who attend their day centre. Cecile, a refugee friend of JRS, came to the conference to tell the story of her experience in the UK asylum system over many years.  It was a story rejection, disruption and isolation, “what is the point of asking for asylum if my story is not believed?” asked Cecile.  But Cecile has retained her courage and her dignity shone through as she awaits a sixth tribunal decision. In a short paper Dr Liam Hayes reminded us of Pope Francis’ efforts in Laudato Si to disrupt the prevailing narratives around refugees, to “challenge the globalisation of indifference… dwell together in our common home …and recover the narrative of inclusion and solidarity.” The conference concluded with Scorn not the Least - a Reflection with Words and Music at the Assumption Chapel.  Dr Michael Kirwan SJ read two reflections – on St Robert Southwell SJ, poet and martyr of sixteenth century England, and on Fr Friedrich Spee SJ a poet and professor who spoke out against torture in seventeenth century Germany.  Several of  Spee’s poems were sung by Heythrop’s Schola Cantorum, along with the Magnificat of Palestrina. Pictured top: the conference organisers and speakers, from left, Dr Gillian Paterson, Dr Joshua Ralston, Dr Sara Silvestri, Dr Liam Hayes, Sarah Teather, Professor David Herd, Cecile, Dr Nick Austin SJ, Dr Sophie Cartwright, Dr Theodora Hawksley CJ, Dr Michael Kirwan SJ
Annual General Meeting JRS-Europe in Belgrade More than 50 members of staff from over 18 different countries gathered in Belgrade at the end of March for JRS Europe’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). "The AGM is an important occasion for exchange on how each national office accompanies, serves and advocates for refugees," says Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ, director of JRS Europe, "And to learn more about what it means to accompany asylum seekers in Serbia, a country on the doorstep of the European Union, where forced migrants feel 'in transit' even if they end up staying for increasingly longer amount of time."  The first day of exchanges included a discussion with Tvrtko Barun SJ, director of JRS South East Europe, Marija Vraneševic, from Philanthropy – a charitable organisation of the Orthodox Church, and Milenko Nikic, a representative of the Serbian government. The speakers highlighted in the discussion how the situation in Serbia, and the broader Western Balkan region, changed before and after the EU-Turkey deal and the closure of the so-called 'Balkan route' bringing fresh challenges for the present day context. On the second day, Marko Štambuk from the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and Jovana Gašic, from the Psychosocial Innovation Network, presented facts about the Serbian asylum system and research findings on the effect of trauma that people experience throughout their migration journeys - in home countries, on the route to Europe and upon arriving in Serbia. Similarly, to the theme of the AGM, the research focused on the psychological impacts of being ‘in transit’ for a prolonged period. Several of the speakers stressed that Serbia kept its borders open in 2015, when many forced migrants crossed the country to seek protection in Western Europe. This is remarkable, as the country was not prepared to receive such numbers. Despite the difficult economic situation of the country, the government considered this the right thing to do, bearing in mind the recent history of conflict and forced displacement in the region. As Vraneševic said, “Everyone in Serbia has either been a refugee or has a refugee among their family or friends.” Despite efforts that are still being made by the local authorities, helping people transiting through the Serbian territory is not the same as providing them with durable protection and integration possibilities. As the Serbian border with Croatia and Hungary is virtually closed, people are staying in Serbia for an increasingly long time without any possibility or perspective to leave. It seems that this reality is also not met by corresponding efforts from the authorities to encourage people to settle in the country. The absence of a long-term reception policy is demonstrated by the fact that asylum seekers are still accommodated in reception facilities meant as temporary accommodation, such as the Krnjaca Asylum Centre near Belgrade that AGM participants visited. Policy gaps in reception are also shown by the lack of adapted accommodation facilities for unaccompanied children, and so the government relies on initiatives such as the Pedro Arrupe House run by JRS Serbia. While it is true that the Serbian authorities must take responsibility for welcoming refugees, it is also important to underline the role, or rather the absence of action, of the European Union. The EU closes its borders and externalises responsibilities to countries such as Serbia that struggle to properly protect them. This has unmeasurable cost for the people concerned, as they may never fully recover from their trauma and society as a whole misses the chance of benefiting from refugees’ contributions. “As far as JRS is concerned,” concludes Garcia, “What we saw and heard during this AGM made us even more aware of the importance of our work in advocating for change and gave us renewed motivation to do it by serving and accompanying refugees.