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: http://www.jrseurope.org/

Fr. Claus Pfuff is the new Country Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Germany. With a celebration on June 11 in Berlin, he succeeded Fr. Frido Pflüger (71) as JRS Director. Pfuff, who originally is from Weilheim (Bavaria), was a school chaplain at the Jesuit High School Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin. Frido Pflüger will head the JRS in Uganda. Before moving to Berlin in 2012, he was JRS Regional Director for East Africa. In Germany, JRS provides pastoral care and legal assistance for detainees pending deportation and immigrants without residence permit. Besides the office in Berlin staff members are working in accommodation centres in Munich and Essen. Like his predecessor, Pfuff represents the Archdiocese of Berlin in the hardship commission for the Berlin State and in the Forum Deportation Monitoring at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Before entering the Society in 2009, as priest with therapeutic training Pfuff helped to build up AIDS counselling in the diocese of Augsburg. As school chaplain at the Canisius-Kolleg he got to know their situation in „Welcome Classes“ for children of migrants and refugees. At the handover ceremony, Dominik Bartsch, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Germany, called for deportations to be carried out "in safety and dignity". So he turned against deportations, which take place early in the morning because of the "surprise effect". How a state treats those affected makes its value system clear. Deportation should only be the „ultima ratio“ of the Immigration Controlling Policies. Stefan Dybowski, responsible for religious institutes of the Archdiocese of Berlin, emphasized that Pflüger had always brought the individual destiny of people seeking help to the fore. The former JRS director and predecessor of Pflüger, Fr. Martin Stark, assured that in addition to the comprehensive educational work in schools and universities, the Jesuits will continue to have the greatest care for refugees and migrants. Picture: Fr. Claus Pfuff receives an Ethiopian cross from Fr. Frido Pflüger
“Why do Christians around the world prefer the narrative of populist nationalism and political exclusion to the message of the Gospel?” was the question posed by expert on the theology of migration, Dr Joshua Ralston, at a conference at Heythrop College to mark World Refugee Day. JRS UK and the Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society hosted Refugee Stories: Changing the Narrative - the fruits of a collaboration between academics working in theology and related disciplines, practitioners serving refugees, and – most importantly – refugees themselves. Dr Sophie Cartwright, JRS UK Policy Officer, explained that the aim was to put the voices of refugees at the centre of the current narratives about the “migrant crisis” and to re-shape the conversation: “we wanted to ground this project in the expertise of refugees [rather than just] gather raw data for academics to fashion into theology and ethics. While academe has something to bring, we learn more from refugees than they do from us.”  Dr Nick Austin SJ agreed: “the academic theoretician needs to think about people and to encounter them… not speak on behalf of refugees because they can speak for themselves.” Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, gave the first paper, in which she described the UK government’s hostile environment policy and how it actively works against the asylum seeker telling his or her story in a coherent way. She explained how Home Office caseworkers and legal aid lawyers do not have the time or training to listen to and understand how to interpret these stories. Tribunals tend to default to suspicion, disbelief, and rejection. The asylum system relentlessly pushes asylum seekers onto the wrong side of the law. Professor David Herd of Kent University, co-founder of Refugee Tales, went further, describing in his paper how talking and listening creates community – “storytelling is integral to human existence..by sharing [the story] it becomes the responsibility of the community who hears it and the detainee becomes a member of the community.”  He proposed that one purpose of the 2016 Immigration Act is to disrupt the telling of stories.  This, along with the well-established practice of dispersal and denial of the right to work or to study, keeps refugees outside the community, outside the law, and enables popular opinion to deny their human dignity. Dr Ralston’s answer is that narrative has been seized by men of power, and that the focus needs to move back to innate human dignity, as reiterated by Christ’s own storytelling: “Theologically, human value is not determined by law; we are claimed as brothers and sisters by Jesus of Nazareth who was himself tried and found guilty before the law.” Refugee voices were also heard during the day: JRS showed a video featuring the stories of  four people who attend their day centre. Cecile, a refugee friend of JRS, came to the conference to tell the story of her experience in the UK asylum system over many years.  It was a story rejection, disruption and isolation, “what is the point of asking for asylum if my story is not believed?” asked Cecile.  But Cecile has retained her courage and her dignity shone through as she awaits a sixth tribunal decision. In a short paper Dr Liam Hayes reminded us of Pope Francis’ efforts in Laudato Si to disrupt the prevailing narratives around refugees, to “challenge the globalisation of indifference… dwell together in our common home …and recover the narrative of inclusion and solidarity.” The conference concluded with Scorn not the Least - a Reflection with Words and Music at the Assumption Chapel.  Dr Michael Kirwan SJ read two reflections – on St Robert Southwell SJ, poet and martyr of sixteenth century England, and on Fr Friedrich Spee SJ a poet and professor who spoke out against torture in seventeenth century Germany.  Several of  Spee’s poems were sung by Heythrop’s Schola Cantorum, along with the Magnificat of Palestrina. Pictured top: the conference organisers and speakers, from left, Dr Gillian Paterson, Dr Joshua Ralston, Dr Sara Silvestri, Dr Liam Hayes, Sarah Teather, Professor David Herd, Cecile, Dr Nick Austin SJ, Dr Sophie Cartwright, Dr Theodora Hawksley CJ, Dr Michael Kirwan SJ
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.