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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For two days at the beginning of October, directors from 15 JRS national offices in Europe came together with the JRS Europe team for a regional coordination meeting in Brussels, Belgium. This bi-annual meeting is a key occasion for JRS in Europe to build our common projects and work to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees in the region. “Besides the sharing of information and joint planning on common projects, this gathering empowers us to pursue of mission with greater strength and unity. After all, we are here to accompany, serve and advocate with refugees,” said JRS Europe director Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ. The programme for the meeting included key updates from each country, discussion of our projects and advocacy sessions around the externalization of EU asylum policy and the future of the EU relocation mechanism. Aspasia Papadopoulou, Senior Advocacy Officer at ECRE, gave us an overview of the Migration Partnership Framework, highlighting serious concerns about EU cooperation on migration management with countries that have poor human rights records such as Libya. Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network and experienced writer on human rights, news media and ethics, presented the session “Refugees in the media: dealing with public opinion”. He highlighted the need for more cooperation between responsible journalists and civil society, to produce in-depth reporting on human rights issues, with fairness and objectivity. The Maison Notre Dame du Chant D’Oiseau was again the place that hosted our regional coordination meeting the 3rd and 4th of October,  giving us a quiet place to share and reflect about our work in a good environment close to the heart of Brussels. The JRS offices participating were JRS France, JRS Germany, JRS Greece, JRS Hungary, JRS Ireland, JRS Italy, JRS Malta, JRS Portugal, JRS Romania, JRS South-East Europe, and JRS United Kingdom. The Groupe ignacien des migrations of the Communauté des Pères Jésuites from Luxemburg, SJM Spain and the Jesuit Province from Switzerland also took part.  The next regional coordination meeting will take place in Belgrade in March.
ALEPPO The JRS team in Aleppo continues with its unstinted support to the affected people in the area, despite many obstacles. On March 1st , 800 families in Al-Fardous eastern Aleppo, were given essential items like hygiene kits & equipment, gas cooker, woollen socks and underwear. This was followed by more than 100 families in Jibreen (also in eastern Aleppo) being provided with gas cylinders. Jabal Badro is a new distribution point in eastern Aleppo, which provides hot cooked and nutritious meals for almost 900 affected families daily. Of late there is a relative calm in Aleppo (sounds of violence can be heard occasionally though). The residents feel a bit relieved because the electricity supply has now improved (two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening). There is also hope that there will be a further improvement in the days to come. With the overall security situation having become much better one of the returnees says, “thank God we are more secure now, we are now able to face the many other challenges that lie ahead!”. HOMS The JRS Team in Homs continued uninterruptedly with its activities inspite of some recent explosions in neighbourhoods in the vicinity. The recent highlights included: The ‘end of the school year’ celebration for the children was a great occasion for the children to show their parents, other family members and friends all that they had imbibed over the year. They sang songs of peace, danced for joy with their beautiful smiles which lit up their angelic faces. In doing so, they enkindled the flame of hope and peace in all those gathered. There was a graduation party for the women who participated in literacy and handcraft Workshops. These workshops have had a positive impact on their lives and have opened them to newer horizons. “I used to feel bad because I could not read a letter, now I can recognize and read the names of my medicines and I need no one’s help for that. I now have self-confidence and feel very satisfied”, says Omaya Harah a woman who participated in the literacy workshop at the Al-Kafroun centre. DAMASCUS Damascus was rudely awakened in the early hours of Sunday 2nd July with bombings which took place in Tahreer square, Al-Baitara circle and near the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Several people lost their lives in these attacks. Besides there have been some other sporadic attacks/explosions recently. Notwithstanding all this, the common people show a tremendous amount of resilience to get on with their lives and to live in a more peaceful environment. The JRS team in Damascus continues accompanying the affected people through a host of activities and programmes. Among those held recently were: An enjoyable four-day programme in the last week of May at the Ibrahim Khalil Monastery in Keshkul for the children who come to the JRS Centres. It was truly ‘end of the school year’ celebration for the children. They radiated joy throughout .Some children came with their mothers and proudly demonstrated to them what they have learnt coming to the JRS centres. It was a memorable and happy event not only for the children, but also for their parents and for the animators. Summer activities for the children are in full swing at the JRS Centres. The children are provided opportunities for joyful learning, improve their talents and engage in a hobby. Shahed Shbeib, a girl from the JRS Damascus centre, sums her experience beautifully, “This summer was different for me... Being in JRS centre with friends, brothers and sisters gave me another feeling, another hope, a different meaning! I do love everything here, the playing, the activities, the drawing... Every day brings new hope to me”. Through these many activities JRS is truly opening doors for the children.
Rama, a thirteen year old girl, is typical of so many other children her age and below, who belong to what is regarded as a “lost generation”. These children have been living in the midst of violence; their daily bread is ‘suffering’ having to flee from one place to another seeking safety and security. Deprived of their childhood, they tend to become reclusive and aggressive; shunning the normal spontaneity of children who are brought up in a different environment. Rama’s story is painful: she was born and brought up in the old city of Homs. The escalating violence forced the family (Rama, her parents and two sisters, one younger and another older) to flee. They lived in Darayya in rural Damascus, in Wadi Barada (in the one room tenement of their grandfather) and in many other places: fugitives in fear. When things got a bit better in Homs they decided to return ‘home’ only to find as Rama says, “We had to move at least twenty times from one place to another. When we finally returned to our ‘original home’ it had been completely burned down and destroyed ". But they had absolutely no choice; the family just went back to live in it. The condition of their house is absolutely pathetic: there are no doors or windows; no access to electricity or water. The neighbourhood is abandoned. To add to their misery, Rama’s father is still unemployed and the family finds it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. A major concern for Rama’s mother was the education of her three daughters. The war had interrupted their schooling. The continual suffering impacted on Rama very negatively: she started becoming violent and withdrawn; she hardly smiled or interacted with others. The JRS Centre in the Old City however became a refuge of hope. Their mother enrolled Rama and another of her daughters there. It was difficult for Rama at the beginning: she refused to mix with others; she was a lost child who preferred isolation to other children. The social worker and the animators gradually and gently reached out to her. The child protection programme and the other activities were also instrumental in helping Rama regain her self-esteem. Love and laughter came back to her life. On her transformation Rama says, “We have suffered much and also discriminated against in the schools; here at the JRS Centre everyone is our brothers and sister. They love us and we love them all”. Rama’s mother is unable to hide her joy and gratitude to the animators for all that they have done for Rama and the elder daughter who able to pass her exam in spite of having partial vision. “All what we ask is the safety of our children; you at JRS have provided it; you have warmly welcomed us; you have accompanied us”, she says very effusively and she continues, “above all, you have returned to me my Rama the lovely girl that I used to know”. As for Rama she dreams of a bright future. Her joy and laughter is contagious: no one can ever miss today that sound of hope in the activities in which Rama participates in! Rama symbolizes the return of hope!
JRS Video Campaign across 9 EU Countries. 19 June 2017, Brussels – As part of the ‘I Get You’ campaign, JRS Europe mapped 315 grassroots refugee initiatives across 9 EU countries. Now, for Refugee Day, we proudly launch 9 campaign videos that put some of these projects into focus. “We thank everyone who took part in the filming, refugees, volunteers and ordinary citizens. We hope these videos will inspire others to take part in initiatives and help build new and diverse communities,” says JRS Europe regional director, Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ. To get a flavour of the entire campaign watch the European video, which contains highlights from all 9 national videos. They cover a huge range of communities and activities: Belgium: Flavia, a refugee from East Africa is hosted by Brussels local, Brigitte Croatia: Cooking project ‘Taste of Home’ in Zagreb France: A Christian family from Iraq find refuge in the Taize community Malta: Mohamed from Sudan set up an association and works as a car painter Italy: ‘Luz y Norte Musical’ are a band of locals and refugees who perform concerts Germany: Locals in Plauen, eastern Germany call for integration not isolation Romania: Meet Syrian rapper, Ali, at Timisoara cultural festival Spain: Local students support Moroccan youth migrants in Bilbao Each 3-minute video is available in English and the local language. Media cleaned versions are available for television. Please see this YouTube playlist for all videos (Croatia coming soon). These community building initiatives are breaking down fear and stereotypes and they are creating new opportunities for all involved. “I cannot do anything about the war, I cannot stop the influx of migrants, but maybe I can change the life of one person,” says Brigitte who hosted Flavia in her home in Brussels. Across all the initiatives filmed refugees and migrants themselves are key actors, volunteering and helping on an equal footing with locals.  “We have to make some effort as migrants, not only the Maltese or European people. It is up to us, I think. This is what I believe.” – Mohamed, refugee from Sudan and founder of the Sudanese Association in Malta. The JRS campaign ‘I Get You’ breaks down stereotypes and combats racism and xenophobia by bringing people together. We believe joint activities are the best way to build mutual understanding and new friendships.  This project is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.
31 May 2017, Brussels – JRS Europe, today, releases key data analysis of 315 community building initiatives mapped as part of I Get You. The European Mapping Report shows that grassroots projects working on integration with refugees have a big impact combatting racism and xenophobia in the nine countries taking part. Across the 9 countries in Europe involved in I Get You, 315 community building initiatives (CBIs) were mapped. The CBIs that were mapped broken down by countries are: 62 in Italy, 55 in France, 50 in Germany, 37 in Belgium, 31 in Spain, 31 in Portugal, 20 in Malta, 15 in Romania and 14 in Croatia. “Despite anti-migrant political discourse influenced by populist parties, our mapping campaign has shown that the local movement to welcome, support and learn together with refugees is stronger than ever – and we have only scratched the surface of the huge array of social events and activities that are out there,” says I Get You coordinator Carola Jimenez Asenjo. ‘Integration not isolation’ is the motto of one of the initiatives mapped, located in Plauen, eastern Germany. By bringing local youth and families together with migrants for gardening, football matches and even speed-dating, stereotypes were broken down and new understanding and relations were built. The main findings have shown that most CBIs across Europe are small in scale and size but have impactful scopes in communities among the individuals that participate in them. Key results from our data analysis: 25-300 participants on average per initiative Participants are working age adults - forced migrants and local citizens Very few initiatives focus on children or the elderly 70 percent of the volunteers are host country nationals, while 20 percent are from other EU countries and 10 percent from third countries A variety of activities and services for people are covered such as skills training, leisure activities and intercultural activities On average initiatives operate on budgets of 25,000 Euros or less 41 percent are financed via grassroots fundraising; 34 percent receive private funding and 25 percent receive public funding National variations in funding include: Public funding was 53 percent in Romania, 39 percent in Portugal and 36 percent in Croatia Germany, France, Spain and Italy had over 50 percent grassroots funding From April to November 2016, quantitative data was gathered on initiatives bringing locals and refugees together via an online questionnaire. A European overview of the data collected is present in the I Get You Europe Mapping Report. More in-depth country mapping reports are also available in the national languages of the partners via the I Get You website. Partners are currently completing in-depth interviews with CBIs to collect qualitative data. Best practices will be analysed according to 12 criteria established by a committee of experts through the DELPHI methodology. These criteria are: Interaction & Encounter, Participation, Awareness Raising, Education, Support & Service Provision, Interculturalism, Dignity, Hospitality, Sustainability, Innovation. This project is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.
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