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 has its International Office in Rome and 10 Regional Offices overseeing the different areas of the world. 

Present in more than 20 countries in Europe, JRS gives direct support to forced migrants and refugees, especially those who are forgotten and in most urgent need. We do that by providing psychosocial and pastoral support in detention centres, legal counselling, education for children and adults, and many social and cultural activities as well as by advocating for structural changes in policies and legislations both at national and European level.

The Europe Regional Office facilitates a network of the Country Offices through common planning and project work.

Web site: https://jrseurope.org/

On 31 March and 1 April 2022 the bi-annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM) took place in Loyola, Spain. JRS Europe and the Directors from JRS national offices attended to reinforce the work on our common priorities: access to protection, immigration detention, social inclusion and awareness raising.    Ukraine emergency Urgent point on the agenda was the discussion of JRS response on the Ukraine emergency. A coordination group has been set up to support the work of JRS in Ukraine and neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania. JRS is also preparing to host Ukrainian refugees in other European countries in the following weeks.    “Our RCM is a great opportunity to walk together in a common mission. In this occasion, the emergency in Ukraine played a crucial role. The main concern at the moment is to deepen the articulation of the network to ensure a medium and long-term response that supports the accompaniment of all displaced people. As in all conflicts, the most able and well-resourced usually flee first, but after these weeks of war our focus is on the most vulnerable, people with special protection needs, such as women and children, unaccompanied children, older and sick people, and people with disabilities,” said  JRS Europe director Alberto Ares.   New strategic framework Other sessions covered the new Strategic Framework for the region for 2022-2024 and an update on the different activities done at European level, including projects, funding, advocacy and communication.    Programme Coordinator Carola Jimenez and Fundraising Coordinator Christopher Klotz showed a breakdown of current and future projects. JRS Europe is currently running several activities, including the Oak Foundation sponsored ‘Monitoring Detention’ and the school programme for awareness raising ‘Change’.   Advocacy and Policy Coordinator Claudia Bonamini shared the work undertaken with the national Advocacy Officers on the topic of reception with the goal of building a common position on the topic.    Best practices All country Directors also had the opportunity to share best practices and the challenges they face in their daily work. Each office prepared a poster with images and the Directors had the opportunity to learn about the work of the other JRS offices.    The RCM was preceded by the Loyola 2022 Justice and Ecology Congress where representatives from across the European Social Apostolate gathered for a week to explore together the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus 2019-2029. JRS Europe team actively participated in the Congress and each of the members of the staff carried out a workshop about the different topics of our work.   Justice networks “The Congress represented a milestone in the deep renewal of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials Justice Networks and, as one of these networks, the participation of JRS Europe was fundamental to align processes and for our contribution to the implementation of the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus by 2029,” concluded JRS Europe director Alberto Ares.   The RCM and the Congress allowed participants to reconnect with the roots of JRS, to strengthen capacity across countries, share best practises and make use of each other’s support and capabilities. 
JRS has been following with concern the developments in Ukraine even before the start of the Russian military offensive. We join with Pope Francis in grieving the “diabolical senselessness of violence” and in asking all parties to “refrain from any action that would cause more suffering.”  While we hope that they will soon be able to return safely, JRS and the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) are mobilizing resources worldwide to provide immediate support in Ukraine and in neighboring countries. JRS stands close in thoughts and prayers with people being forced to leave their homes. We welcome efforts by the EU and its Member States, in particular those neighboring Ukraine, to keep borders open and welcome those forced to flee and we call on the EU to respond with unity and in solidarity in the short and long term.  Support Ukrainian Refugees You can also take action and support the Ukrainian refugees by clicking here   In Ukraine: helping those fleeing, supporting the internally displaced  In Lviv, where JRS is present, the security situation is still relatively calm. Many people are arriving from other parts of Ukraine. The majority of them intends to reach the Polish border and often needs support or a place to spend the night on their way there. JRS refugee house, with a capacity of about 20 people, is currently been used to that end. Also the retreat house of the Jesuits has been immediately converted into a transit house for displaced people.   In Romania: JRS on the first line  Between the 24th and 28th of February, 70.000 people have transited from Ukraine into Romania. About 30.000 of them quickly left for other EU countries, while about 28.000 chose to remain. Only a small minority officially applied for asylum for the moment, so most of them are legally migrant and not entitled to reception as asylum seekers. Both the Romanian authorities and citizens are showing great enthusiasm to welcome people, however coordination is still needed in the different responses.   JRS Romania is providing support both in the centers for asylum seekers along the borders and to the people who are not in the centers, by providing welcome packages, acting as a mediator between private donors, government organizations and the people in need, supporting people to reach airports and train stations, providing accommodation in JRS’s own shelter and looking for more accommodation for people in need.    In Poland and Hungary: creating and supporting a welcoming infrastructure  Poland is for the moment the country receiving the most arrivals of people from Ukraine. Many are staying with family and friends as well as travelling forward to other EU countries. JRS is mobilizing to facilitate transportation for people from the borders as well as providing basic supplies and supporting people finding provisional accommodation through rental assistance. Additional support in the form of legal, administrative as well as psychological assistance is being organized.   Hungary is receiving smaller numbers of people for the moment, including Hungarians who were living across the border in Ukraine. The government has expressed the will to support the refugees and the Hungarian population is reacting in a very welcoming way. JRS has a small presence in the country and at this moment is assessing how to best be of use. Hungary is traditionally a transit country for refugees, however in this case, should the conflict continue, it is likely that many Ukrainians will want to remain. JRS is therefore already looking into medium-term support needs, such as longer term accommodation support, next to the more immediate needs such as food and healthcare supplies.   In South-East Europe: preparing from the ‘second line’   Bearing in mind the experience of the Crimean crisis in 2014, JRS in South-East Europe (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North-Macedonia) is also preparing to receive some Ukrainians refugees should the conflict persist. Contingency planning is prepared, including the search for potential accommodation within families, parishes and Jesuit houses. Relevant contacts with government authorities and municipalities, such as the city of Zagreb in Croatia, are being established in order to be ready with response based on hospitality in case of need.      At the EU level: advocating for a welcoming response  At the regional level JRS Europe is monitoring the developments in the region as a whole and the EU’s response in particular.  We welcome the initial positive response of the EU Member States, determined to react as a Union and provide protection to people feel Ukraine and we strongly support the proposal of activating the procedure to provide temporary protection in cases of max influx of refugees as foreseen by the Temporary Protection Directive.   We wish to stress that all people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine should be allowed to leave the country, irrespective of their nationality. Once in safety, and within  adequate reception conditions, the protection needs of third country nationals that are not Ukrainians can be assessed according to the existing procedures and the repatriation of those who wish to return to their home-countries can and should be facilitated.   Next to the immediate response, EU Member States need to quickly discuss and agree on a responsibility-sharing scheme, including clear relocation measures, to ensure that the workload of Ukraine’s neighboring countries remains under control and that EU standards of protection and reception conditions can be guaranteed. Finally, the protection needs of Ukrainians who were already outside the country when the conflict started must also be recognized. 
Today the Jesuit Refugee Service network in Europe publishes the new Strategic Framework for 2022-2024, once again reinforcing its mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people. Acting as a guidepost for JRS’s work in the region, the Strategic Framework aims to identify common purposes between countries within the network, to rearticulate the mission and founding values, and to formulate the goals for the next three years. The document was developed through a process of discernment and consultations, where JRS Europe and the 22 country offices worked together to produce a truly shared result. JRS in Europe works towards a Europe where human rights, protection, hospitality, integration, and reconciliation all have a place to flourish within a larger vision for inclusive and welcoming societies. All JRS offices share a common base of values and core competencies, working together through shared guiding principles, working channels, advocacy and communication strategies, as well as a gender-sensitive approach. We live in a world of persistent inequality, and despite Europe being one of the wealthiest regions, both the EU and its Member States continue to approach refugees as a threat. Against the growing public anti-migration discourse, JRS’s commitment to a culture of hospitality remains more relevant than ever. Over the next three years, JRS in Europe will continue to work on four common programmatic areas: Social Inclusion and Integration Access to Protection Detention Awareness Raising Through this common framework, the JRS network in Europe is united in the spirit of solidarity and hospitality. Inspired by Pope Francis “In the poor, you have found a privileged place of encounter with Christ. This is a precious gift. (…) Share your hope wherever you are, to encourage, console, comfort and reinvigorate.” (Rome, 2019), JRS will continue to discover, redefine and reach out on behalf of forced migrants and refugees. For us, frontiers and boundaries are not obstacles or ends, but new challenges to be faced, new opportunities to be welcomed.
JRS-Europe Campaign: This Christmas, we need your help. Most people held in detention because of immigration procedures have never committed a crime. There is strong evidence that detention is harmful for people’s physical and mental health. Detention is often justified to enforce returns of irregularly staying migrants. However, there is no evidence that the enforcement of returns increases with the use of detention. Alternatives to detention exist. They are effective, humane and affordable and should be used. Detention of migrants and asylum seekers is not necessary. The EU and its Member States should invest in manifestly more cost-efficient, more humane and more effective measures instead. We should leverage the experience gained from alternatives to detention and work toward an EU that leaves no one behind. This Christmas, support people that are alone in immigration detention centres. You can help us end immigration detention with a donation to JRS or you can volunteer your time by contacting JRS offices. If you are interested in volunteering, contact JRS office in your country: Belgium Malta Spain UK
JRS-Europe Regional Coordination Meeting. On 16-17 November 2021 the bi-annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM) took place in Drongen, Belgium. JRS Europe and the Directors from JRS national offices attended to work on common goals to pursue our mission to serve, accompany and advocate refugees and forcibly displaced people in Europe. Following last year’s online RCM, all participants welcome the occasion to meet in person, in full respect of Covid safety rules. “For the national directors and JRS Europe staff, the RCM is a very important time both to meet each other and to move forward on common projects. It’s a time for planning and evaluating shared programmes and activities, but it’s also a moment to share a common vision.  Our approach is based on the experience of the refugees and displaced people with whom we walk, accompanied by the work carried out by our professionals and volunteers,” said  JRS Europe director Alberto Ares. New strategic framework for JRS-Europe Key point on the agenda was the drafting of a new Strategic Framework for the region for 2022-2024. Based on feedback on the previous framework, JRS Europe and country Directors had the chance to discuss the programmatic areas and work together to develop a coordinated strategy for the future, to effectively fulfil common goals. The discussion also covered new challenges presented by the pandemic and best practises. “We agreed on the main lines of the Strategic Framework, the paths we want to walk together in the coming years. JRS Europe works towards a Europe where human rights, protection, hospitality, integration, and reconciliation all have a place to flourish within a larger vision for inclusive and welcoming societies. In every RCM we find time to celebrate and commemorate the people we serve,” said JRS Europe director Alberto Ares JRS Europe also provided an update on the activities done at European level, including projects, funding, advocacy and communication. Fundraising Coordinator Christopher Klotz showed a breakdown of current and pending funding from JRS donors. In terms of projects, JRS Europe is currently running several activities, including the Oak Foundation sponsored ‘Monitoring Detention’ and the school programme for awareness raising ‘Change’, and more will come next year. Advocacy and Policy Coordinator Claudia Bonamini shared the latest updates on EU migration policies, which JRS Europe is involved in through advocacy efforts on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and participation in Frontex Consultative Forum. All country Directors also had the opportunity to present the current context and activities in their countries. The presentations showed the diversity of JRS activities across Europe, always based on true understanding of local needs and ranging from detention monitoring, reception and psychosocial support, language learning, and more. The two days allowed participants to reconnect with the network, to strengthen capacity across countries, share best practises and make use of each other’s support and capabilities. “The most important thing of all was to meet again, to share our lights and shadows in this common work we all carry together, through the people we accompany, serve and advocate … to keep hope alive.” concluded JRS Europe director Alberto Ares.
... and reception of asylum seekers in Covid-19 times. ‘Stories from immigration detention and reception of asylum seekers in Covid-19 times’ presents the findings and recommendations of JRS Europe’s reports on the impact on Covid-19 on immigration detention and asylum reception through first-hand accounts from forced migrants who lived through these situations, as well as JRS staff members and volunteers who listened to the testimonies. The collection of factsheets lays out the facts in a format that is easy to read and digest, can be used to quickly inform someone of the reality of homelessness and destitution caused by improper reception policies, or the toll isolation is taking on migrants in detention centres. The reports and the fact-sheets are the results of the work of JRS Europe and its partners in nine countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain) within the framework of the project ‘Learning from Covid-19 Pandemic for a more protective Common European Asylum System’. Download the stories