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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“Church asylum is a blessing for the constitutional state", emphasizes Father Frido Pflüger SJ, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, on the occasion of the discussion at the conference of the interior minister. In case of doubt, it gives the state the opportunity to check its actions again to see whether they are fair to the individual," said the Jesuit on December 7 in Berlin. The Jesuit Refugee Service has accompanied several hundred Churches in Bavaria. Berlin (JRS) - Church asylum means an immense responsibility and burden for congregations, says brother Dieter Müller SJ in Munich, who has had contact with numerous congregations and monasteries that have granted church asylum to at least 120 refugees since January 2017. "No church community takes this lightly on itself, but only because it is convinced of the unjustifiable hardship of deportation for one person," he says. In comparison with the number of decisions - especially the many decisions that are corrected by courts - the number of church asylums is minimal. The fact that the number of asylum seekers has increased is not least due to the fact that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has completed more asylum procedures. In many cases, it has been relegated to another EU country. A young woman, who had to flee on her own, should return to Italy. There she is not only threatened with homelessness: the danger of being forced into prostitution by violence is very high. A parish has received her and, with the help of a lawyer, tries to ensure she can conduct her asylum procedure in Germany.  Most of the church asylums known to Br. Dieter Müller concern repatriations to Italy and Bulgaria - countries in which many refugees have had brutal experiences or are at the mercy of total lack of perspective. To his knowledge, factors which may induce a parish to grant church asylum - in individual cases also against repatriation to countries such as Spain or the Netherlands - are threatening violence, acute traumatisation or, especially in the case of young adults, family ties.  Instead, refugees are being pushed back and forth through Europe regardless of their fate." Müller rejects speculations about unreported people as an unsubstantiated allegation: "I do not know of a single congregation that would hide a refugee from the authorities. The aim of a church asylum is to remain in contact with the authorities and find a solution." Director Pflüger SJ adds: "Instead of making a symbolic policy for the right-wing border at the expense of refugees, it would make more sense to actively support the enormous civil society commitment in refugee work - of which only a small part is church asylum. It could, for example, deal with the question of how refugees can lead a normal life here as quickly as possible."
On December 18 - International Migrants Day - Deusto University launched the photo exhibition "Stand by. Syrian refugee families in no man's land" by the photojournalist Iván Benítez, and promoted by the Jesuit NGO ALBOAN. The photographs reflect the day-to-day lives of the refugees, mostly Syrians, who are served by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Lebanon and Greece. JRS offers them legal advice, psychological and social support, and supports several schools where the children can continue their studies, while waiting for a final destination in the UE. The exhibition will be open in Deusto until January 31. Fr Antonio España, Provincial of Spain, participated at the exhibition opening so as Fr José Ignacio García (JRS Europe director), Fr Guibert (Rector of the University of Deusto) and Mrs. Mar Magallón (Alboan director). The actor Cruz Noguera performed the suffering of migration with the work "Passport", and two collaborators of the Ignacio Ellacuría Social Foundation read a manifesto for the rights of migrants and refugees.
Brussels, 6 December 2017 - In a climate of divisive rhetoric and xenophobic populism from political leaders in Europe, JRS Europe’s new research published today shows that overwhelming numbers of Europeans actively welcome and include forced migrants in our societies. “Our findings show that politicians are lagging behind ordinary citizens when it comes to the social inclusion of forced migrants,” says JRS Europe director Jose Ignacio Garcia. “It is time for governments around Europe to support, invest in and learn from civil society initiatives that pave the way for successful and dynamic communities, where all members, new and old have space to contribute.” The ‘I Get You’ final report draws on two years of in-depth research and campaigning with 315 community-building initiatives in nine EU countries. It analyses how grassroots initiatives that bring migrants and locals together for activities such as sports, cooking, language learning etc. break down stereotypes and create mutual trust through encounter. Welcome, friendship and a sense of belonging are the first steps to integration. “I Get You answers the crucial question that we have today as individuals, communities and countries: do you choose isolation or inclusion? If people feel welcomed, loved and supported they will reach their potential. Nothing could be more win-win than that,” concludes Garcia. I Get You was co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union I Get You European Report available here
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!