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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The people in refugee camps are in big threat due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The refugee camps are not prepared to deal with the coronavirus and immediate action is needed in order to avoid even more dramatic consequences. Advocating for all the migrants that are in risk, JRS and a long list of Ong’s and organizations addressed the following letter to the main European Authorities.   President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli President of the European Council, Charles Michel Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis   We urge the immediate evacuation of the refugee camps and hotspots on the Greek islands to avert a catastrophe amidst the coronavirus pandemic. More than 42,000 people are trapped on the islands in hopelessly overcrowded camps and in horrific conditions. Recommended measures like social distancing or frequent hand washing are simply impossible. There is no hope of containing any outbreak within the camps. It would endanger the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, both refugees and the local population. Time is of the essence. We urge emergency action to guarantee the health and safety of the asylum seekers, the local population and the humanitarian aid workers on the islands. The European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament must make every effort to urge member states to fulfil their responsibilities and accept asylum seekers from Greece. We demand that access to the universal human right to seek and be granted asylum, as guaranteed by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, should immediately be restored and upheld. This includes accepting asylum applications and considering them in fair asylum procedures, not punishing people who cross borders in order to make an asylum application, and fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement, which is currently being circumvented by illegal pushbacks. We, the undersigned civil society organisations are confident, given our long experience in caring for and advising refugees, that it is well within the EU’s capacity to cope with the current crisis on its external borders. We stand in solidarity with the refugees and offer our help to avoid this looming humanitarian catastrophe. List of all signatories Picture: Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos (Photo: JRS Greece)
Brussels, 20 December 2019 – 2019 has been a year of elections, which brings change, but also often means a paralysis of any substantial political activity for months. In early 2020 the European Commission must come with a ‘fresh start’ to work towards a ‘New Asylum and Migration Pact’. 2019:  a year both of change and stalemate 2019 was an election year. In May 2019 we voted for a new European Parliament, and several countries in Europe went repeatedly through elections and change of government. Elections bring change, but they also often mean a paralysis of any substantial political activity for months. The European Commission is a clear example. It took from the end of May to the beginning of December to finally install a EU College of Commissioners. We can also find examples at national level - Belgium and Spain have not yet formed governments. What does this mean for the Common European policy on Asylum and Migration ? A complete stalemate. The CEAS reform was put on hold and even the intergovernmental attempts to address, for instance, the issue of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea did not go very far. New dynamics in Europe The European elections brought us a parliament in which the far-right growth was more limited than many feared. Nevertheless, with the traditional parties, the Christian Democrats (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D) no longer holding the majority together, other political balances and dynamics must emerge. Groups, such as the liberals of Renew Europe and the Greens, will have more weight in future discussions. The formation of a new European Commission started off on the wrong foot with a president designate that was not one of the leading candidates supported by the political groups, and with an unfortunate proposed title for the vice-president with migration, security and integration in its portfolio. While the name was changed, it remains to be seen if the attitude will really be one that wants to reverse the poisonous and polarising discourse that dominated the  asylum and migration debate for the past five years. Look forward to 2020: changing the narrative and more human policies In early 2020 the European Commission must come with a ‘fresh start’ to work towards a ‘New Asylum and Migration Pact’. How this pact will look is still unclear. JRS hopes this ‘fresh start’ will bring: A principled choice for expanding safe and legal pathways for refugees to seek protection in Europe with EU Member States embracing their legal and moral duty to welcome and protect forced migrants and acknowledging that no protection is possible without access to the territory. The end of push-backs once and for all. The end of criminalisation of NGOs and individuals providing help to forced migrants. The full implementation of the current European legislation on asylum. Although not perfect, the current CEAS, if corrected implemented, would provide a considerable improvement in the condition of asylum seekers throughout the EU. A reform of the Dublin regulation that ensures the participation of asylum seekers in process of determination of Member State responsible to examine their application A change of narrative from one that presents refugees as a threat to one in which European citizens are called keep an open mind in the encounter with people from different cultures and background so that such encounter can be mutually enriching and build stronger and inclusive communities.
JRS responds to new parliamentary report on the safety of migrants and asylum seekers. On Monday MPs published a report indicting the UK’s excessive focus on border security, leading Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to once again call for safe and legal routes to migrate and seek asylum. The report, compiled by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, says that “A policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups.” It comes in the wake of the tragic deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in a lorry container in Essex last month.  Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said: “This report is further evidence of the harm caused by a migration policy obsessed with making movement as difficult as possible. A new approach, which makes it easier for people to move when they need to and truly prioritises the protection of human life, is urgently required.” The Foreign Affairs Select Committee called for the government to establish more pathways to seek asylum from outside of Europe, and to encourage other European countries to do likewise, echoing longstanding calls for safe and legal routes from the Jesuit Refugee Service. JRS in Europe is involved in advocating for humanitarian visas for those seeking sanctuary. Sarah Teather commented on this recommendation: “We welcome the call for more pathways to seek asylum from outside of Europe. At JRS UK, we work with Vietnamese victims of trafficking. They were vulnerable to traffickers because there were no regular routes by which they could migrate. Many asylum seekers we serve have also been forced to make dangerous journeys, because the alternative was certain death if they stayed where they were. This will continue for as long as governments in safe countries cut off routes to reach them.” For more information about the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK, please visit
In the lead up to the World Day of Migrants & Refugees, JRS Europe and partners launch CHANGE. CHANGE is a project that builds a society in which everyone is welcome and can participate. JRS Europe is committed to making CHANGE happen together with JRS Croatia, JRS Hungary, JRS Ireland, JRS Italy, Stanislas College in the Netherlands, JRS Malta, JRS Portugal and ALBOAN in Spain. CHANGE’s focus on education through critical thinking and value formation on migration and refugee issues is of critical importance to the CHANGE partners. We believe that it is young people who will shape the attitudes and societies of tomorrow and we want to help form and enable young people to make a CHANGE in their schools and local communities. CHANGE, through a defined 6–stage educational course facilitated by teachers, aims to encourage students to think critically on the subject of refugees and migration, to distinguish facts from opinions, and to recognise prejudices and stereotypes. In this way, students will be able to make their own, well-founded judgments. By giving students meaningful knowledge, experiences, encounters, and new perspectives, CHANGE seeks to form young people who are ready to face and embody their role in building a society in which everyone is welcome and has the opportunity to participate. CHANGE provides a platform for refugees to share their stories directly with students, enabling refugees to speak in classrooms, and to share their experience of living in Europe, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. Through this platform, CHANGE will provide a opportunity for encounter between refugees and young people, with the goal to foster a sense of understanding and connection. Another component of CHANGE is the Student Ambassador programme, which encourages students to get more involved and to engage in a minimum of two concrete actions, such as small-scale events, campaigns or service projects, to share what they have learned with their school or local communities. Students then communicate these experiences across social media using the hashtag #IamCHANGE. Together – students, teachers and refugees – all have a role to play in CHANGE. Learning, teaching and sharing experiences during moments of encounter facilitate the changing of perspectives and contribute towards the creation of the society that we want to live in. Visit the CHANGE website to learn more. On the site, you can find information about the 6-stage course, the Student Ambassador programme and check-out the CHANGE blog. You can follow and share about CHANGE on social media using the hashtags #IamCHANGE and #2gether4CHANGE. This project is co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Union. JRS Europe is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to serve, accompany and advocate on behalf of refugees and others who are forcibly displaced.
Brussels, 21 October 2019 – Last week national directors from 17 JRS offices in Europe came together with the JRS Europe team in the bi-annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM) in Leuven. The aim of the two days was to strengthen synergies and to reinforce our work to serve, accompany and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. The agenda for the meeting included key updates from each country. These meetings are an opportunity to learn about the situation of asylum seekers and refugees in the different national contexts and about what JRS is doing to support these people in the different areas of our work, such as integration, reception and support to migrants and asylum seekers in detention.  This year JRS International Director Tom Smolich attended the meeting to present global strategies and to share the work JRS is doing in other regions. As refugee participation is an important value for JRS around the world, JRS Europe staff organized a session to reflect on what refugee participation looks like for the different national JRS offices. “There is a strong sense throughout JRS in Europe that we need to increase the participation of refugees in our programmes. This has to be done in a way that respects the concrete situations, can give real opportunities to those refugees that want to join efforts with JRS. We need to overcome our logical resistances, but the experience of some national teams give us the means to move forward,” said JRS Europe director Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ. The advocacy session included a revision of the positive results of the JRS campaign “The Power of Vote,” a presentation on EU political developments and the state of play of EU migration legislation, and a discussion concerning  the next steps to continue advocating as JRS in Europe. In this meeting, the programmes department drew on key programmatic areas for JRS in Europe to imagine future common European projects that can strengthen the work JRS does, with a focus on what we consider to be the most needed areas in the current European context . The next RCM will take place in Lisbon in April 2019 together with the Annual General Meeting, which gathers around 60 staff members of JRS in Europe.
Annual report JRS. 2018 has had an end-of-cycle tone for this European Regional Office. With the conclusion of the projects Protection of External Borders and Communities of Hospitality, we have closed a long cycle of three years that has focused our action, jointly with our partners, on protection of human rights at the external borders of the EU, and meaningful encounters between forcibly displaced people and their new communities in Europe. In fact, the topic of Protection is the focus of this Annual Report. The Protection of External Borders project has allowed us to realize, with concern, that the external borders of the EU are still a grey area in terms of law enforcement and the effective protection of human rights for those who arrive. Although the EU has been equipping itself with different legal instruments to ensure that protection is carried out with high standards, the reality at border posts, unfortunately, remains clearly poor.  JRS experience protecting refugees and asylum seekers in Europe was very broad in 2018. Projects sheltering vulnerable people in countries such as Macedonia, Serbia, and Greece, and visits to migrants in detention centres to provide them with legal assistance, are only a few examples of the scope of this work. Every year, the Annual Report is an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and generosity of our many benefactors, staff and volunteers. To them we offer our most sincere gratitude.