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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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.
Athens, 16 March 2018 – The staff, volunteers and refugees of JRS Greece were recently visited by Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in the framework of his official visit to Greece. The Portuguese President welcomed volunteers from JRS, many of whom were Portuguese students who provide refugee support services through the Refugee Support Platform (PAR). After hearing the experiences of Portuguese volunteers at the refugee centre, Mr de Sousa thanked them for the work they offered and said: "We are proud of these young Portuguese people who are helping here for what they do, what they feel and what they are learning. It is a unique experience. In the morning we were in Thebes and met refugees. Europe must act against this challenge. Europe must act for what it deserves in human existence and in social justice. True Europe is our own Europe, fighting for people and social justice." JRS Greece director, Maurice Joyeux SJ, thanked him for his visit, stating that "with this visit you are urging us to continue our work." Moreover, as he himself emphasized, "Through this program we are fighting together against fear and discrimination." "We help the refugees, learn their stories, their names and feel what these people feel," said Maria, volunteer from Portugal. The Portuguese President visited the two houses of JRS Greece: the Pedro Arrupe Centre where JRS runs an afterschool for about 150 children and the JRS shelter which accommodates about 50 vulnerable forced migrants. Mr de Sousa went to the refugees' rooms, spoke to them and accepted the volunteer's gifts, honouring him for his visit. JRS Greece also runs a day centre and is actively engaged in advocacy, trying to improve conditions for refugees in Greece.   A video of the meeting is available here More news from JRS - Click here
“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.