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: https://jrseurope.org/

Faith-Based Organisations on World Refugee Day 2020.  In his 2020 Message, Pope Francis invites all people of faith and goodwill to get to know migrants and refugees and, this year in particular, those who have been forced to flee but have been unable to cross an international border, the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Pope Francis encourages all of us to “know in order to understand” -- personal knowledge is a necessary step towards appreciating the plight of others and making it our own. On World Refugee Day 2020, we wholeheartedly support the Pope’s invitation because the plight of IDPs is an often unseen tragedy that the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. Today, there are more than 50.8 million internally displaced persons who have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, violence or persecution. IDPs live in very difficult situations as they struggle to find safety within their home country or are unable to reach and then cross an international border to seek refugee status. Millions more are IDPs because of natural disasters. As humanitarian organizations and communities, we accompany, serve and involve IDPs around the world and call on policymakers and practitioners to listen to their needs and draw attention to their struggles. In this time of COVID-19, we have seen this already radically vulnerable group running increased protection risks from their own governments. The profound social and financial crisis brought about by the pandemic could result in the concerns of IDPs receding further into the background. Some of our organizations are advocating for enhanced legal protection, non-discriminatory access to services, respect for their dignity and the enactment of peace building and reconciliation programs for IDPs. By engaging with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs and the Global Protection Cluster, which have taken the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, we call for renewed attention to the plight of IDPs around the world. “It is important that internally displaced persons not be abandoned in this crisis. I call on States to exercise their sovereign responsibility to protect them based on the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and without diverting from existing delivery of humanitarian assistance”, says Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, UN Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs. Displacement is about real people, and we must always remember that Jesus was once a displaced person. It is likely that most of us have displacement of some kind in our own family histories. If we engage with present day forcibly displaced persons in our midst, we will know more about the urgency of their predicament. Opening our eyes and mind will lead to a clearer idea of what we need to do to help them. COVID-19 has stirred us to reflect on the displacement in our own hearts and on the flaws in our economic and political systems. Greed can so easily displace compassion. Deep in our hearts we know that care for others - not exploitation of them - makes us truly human. Mantras like "me and my country first" lack depth and are the products of misguided thinking. In these uncertain times, Pope Francis exhorts us to be close in order to serve. On World Refugee Day 2020, we call for transformation. We call for eyes and hearts to open to action by recognizing, contemplating, and sharing the life of refugees, IDPs, and migrants. Through them we can see more clearly the truth about ourselves, our societies, and the direction we must follow. We therefore unite our voices with Pope Francis in his 2020 Message: “It is not about statistics, it is about real people! If we encounter them, we will get to know more about them. And knowing their stories, we will be able to understand them.”   Signatories: Alboan Amala Annai Capuchin Province, Northern Tamil Nadu, India Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia Claretian Missionaries Congregation de Notre Dame of Montreal Congregations of St. Joseph Dominicans for Justice and Peace Dominican Leadership Conference EcoJesuit Entreculturas Federazione Organismi Cristiani Servizio Internazionale Volontario (FOCSIV) Fondazione Italiana di Solidarietà Marista Champagnat Fondazione Proclade Internazionale-Onlus (Claretian Presence at the UN) Fondazione Marista per la Solidarietà Internazionale (FMSI) Global Ignatian Advocacy Network for the Right to Education (GIAN Education) Global Ignatian Advocacy Network on Migration (GIAN Migration) Instituto Universitario de Estudios sobre Migraciones (IUEM), Universidad Pontificia Comillas Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Loreto Generalate International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) International Presentation Association International Union of Superiors General (UISG) Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Justice Peace Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic Medical Mission Sisters Mercy International Association: Mercy Global Action People’s Watch - India Red Jesuita con Migrantes de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RJM/LAC) Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Salesian Missions Inc. Salvatorian Office for International Aid (SOFIA) Scalabrini Missionaries School Sisters of Notre Dame Service of Documentation & Study on Global Mission (SEDOS) Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) Sisters of Charity Federation Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill Generalate Sisters of Charity US Province Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership Sisters of Mercy Brisbane, Australia Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, Society of Jesus Society of the Sacred Heart Solidaridad y Misión de los Misioneros Claretianos de América (SOMI-MICLA). Tamil Nadu Catholic Religious India (TNCRI) THALIR - Casey Capuchin Holistic Welfare Centre, India The Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul Unanima International Union of Superiors General (USG) VIVAT International World Faiths Development Dialogue Youth Action for Transformation (YATRA)   On the picture: Children living in the JRS Safe Haven play and sing during morning activities. Kakuma camp, Kenya. ©F.Lerneryd
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic there has been widespread public concern about the safety and welfare of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, in light of overcrowding and of the fact that centres are congregated settings. The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland is particularly concerned about what is going to happen to high-risk vulnerable groups living in state accommodation centres in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak there, including the elderly, immune-compromised, and those with existing health conditions. Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland, elaborates below on the plight of refugees at this time and outlines what JRS Ireland is doing to assist them. JRS Ireland addresses well-founded fears of Covid-19 in Direct Provision JRS Ireland supports and delivers services to residents in 12 direct provision centres and in 20 emergency locations. Since 11 March, in line with many frontline services, the pandemic has required JRS Ireland to move a remote model of service as face to face meeting with residents are not permitted other than in exceptional circumstances. Remote accompaniment is provided through daily calls and contact with residents. The importance of maintaining that personal connection was strikingly highlighted by a resident in a centre in the west who expressed his appreciation that JRS Ireland staff ensured he was “not forgotten” during his 14 days in self-isolation. At the present time, there are 80 state accommodation centres for asylum seekers. There are 6,300 persons in DP centres and a further 1,300 persons in emergency accommodation, a total population of 7,600. Conditions differ greatly between centres, ranging from own door accommodation to cramped rooms with 7-8 persons in bunk beds. The majority of people share bedrooms and in many case toilets and showers, add in communal eating times, these living conditions present significant challenges for social distancing to all. The fears of asylum seeker facing Covid-19 are well-founded. The Department of Justice and Equality has brought in a number of measures to address concerns for persons in Direct Provision including bringing on board an additional 650 beds to reduce overcrowding in numbers in existing centres; securing off-site self-isolation capacity and identifying and ensuring adequate ‘cocooning’ of the categories of people identified as highly vulnerable Over the past 10 days, JRS Ireland staff have supported more than 300 residents who have been transferred in a ‘thinning exercise’ to reduce overcrowding and to enable the most vulnerable to cocoon onsite. Information and advice on the duration of moves, impact on welfare and medical supports is provided to residents and their priority concerns are raised with Department officials. Throughout the crisis, JRS Ireland has been in regular contact with HSE and Department officials advocating for action and changes that can improve the safety and wellbeing of Direct Provision residents in centres. This included a policy submission to the Department of Justice offering a practical approach to identifying and gathering data on the most vulnerable groups and medical needs of residents to inform critical public health decisions concerning their welfare. I am conscious that this is an extremely difficult and uncertain time for all and especially for forcibly displaced persons JRS works with and serves throughout the world. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all share in common worry and concern about the health and safety of family members, friends, relatives and loved ones. The thousands across the globe who have died or are critically ill from the virus remain in our thoughts and prayers. JRS Ireland will remain committed to reaching out to and supporting Direct Provision residents, especially the most vulnerable, to the maximum of our ability for the duration of the crisis and beyond.
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 https://www.jrsuk.net/
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.