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 Sunday 5 December, the Jesuit Refugee Service Greece was invited to attend the Sunday Mass led by Pope Francis at the Megaro Mousikis in Athens, during his 3-day visit to Greece. With over 2,000 people attending, Pope Francis led the ceremony in front of a packed hall and shared a message of justice and solidarity. During the homily, he called to show charity and stand along those that are inadequate, showing compassion. “Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today’s world are thirsting.” Father Pierre, the responsible of the Jesuit Community in Athens, delivered a letter to the Pope in the name of JRS Greece, to express gratitude for the empathy shown towards refugees and forcibly displaced people arriving Greece. Together with the letter, the pontifex also given a gift with photos and drawings by the children of Magistories, a programme managed by JRS Greece for vulnerable minors that frequent the area of Victoria Square, where thousands of people live homeless in Athens; and was shown a newsletter prepared by the children of Pedro Arrupe, a non-formal education centre run by JRS Greece where vulnerable kids receive extra classes and support. In return, Pope Francis awarded JRS Greece a medal as a sign of gratitude for the tireless work. An inspiration for JRS and allorganisations working on the front line, the Pope’s visit was an opportunity to reinstate JRS commitment to honouring human dignity and building a more inclusive world, where no one is left behind.   Pope Francis also travelled to the Mavrovouni tent camp on Lesbos, the largest camp in Greece, which he already visited in 2016 after almost one million people had landed on the Greek islands the year before. With numbers of asylum seekers crossing to Greece dropping, Moira appeared drastically different than during his first visit. The Pope said that “When human lives are in peril… national borders become irrelevant” and called the neglect of migrants the “shipwreck of civilisation”. But in the past 5 years, conditions for millions of migrants in Greece have not improved. Reports from multiple sources have recorded serious allegations of Greek authorities conducting pushbacks on the borders, which partially accounts for the reduced number of arrivals. New EU-funded “Closed and Controlled” centres are being opened on the Greek islands, where refugees are to be detained with limited access to services. Overall, the Greek government is implementing a strict migration policy that has an enormous impact on the migrant community.  JRS Greece joined over 36 other Greek organisations and signed a letter, directed to Pope Francis, expressing concern regarding recent developments on the refugee crisis and the European response. Condemning EU States for forgoing their responsibilities towards people seeking international protection, against European and Christian values, the letter asks the Pontifex to deploy his influence to:  Condemn European countries for deals with Third Countries, such as Turkey, which exchanges financial compensation with duties on international protection, shifting responsibility and hindering the safety of forcibly displaced people;  Call on the Greek State to formulate a plan for the integration of refugees; at the same time asking the EU to introduce a mandatory relocation plan, acting in solidarity with border countries;  Condemn illegal pushbacks of people back to Turkey and all human rights violation on European borders; calls for the establishment of an independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate these incidents; Condemn the establishment of “Closed and Controlled” centres on the Greek islands, which deprive people of their freedom and hinder their integration; instead, call for their radical reform;  Read the full letter: Letter for His Holiness
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
Alberto Ares SJ, from the Province of Spain, has been appointed as the new Director of JRS Europe. Alberto will take over his new position in September 2021, succeeding José Ignacio García SJ, who holds that office since the beginning of 2017. Alberto was born in a small village in the north of Spain, Veguellina de Órbigo. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1997, was ordained in 2007 and took final vows in 2014. He has a Ph.D. in International Migration and Development Cooperation from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He studied and obtained degrees in Social Ethics at Boston College, Theology in Comillas and Economics and Business Administration at the University of Valladolid. Much of his time as a Jesuit has been spent accompanying and studying migration and migrants. His work has taken him all over the world, from the United States to Brazil, Mexico to Morocco, Spain to India and El Salvador to Albania. He has been also the Social Apostolate Delegate for the Jesuits in Spain. He is currently the Director of the University Institute for Migration Studies at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas and Deputy Coordinator of the Jesuit Migrant Service in Spain, until September 2021. Alberto is also passionate about Ignatian spirituality and pastoral work with migrant communities and young people. He collaborates in two of the parishes that the Jesuits serve in Ventilla neighborhood, Madrid; and as part of that collaboration, he accompanies the Ecuadorian community "La Virgen del Quinche". He has been living in a community of hospitality. In his Jesuit community, they welcome and share life with young migrants and refugees in their process of autonomy. At the same time, the community tries to be a place of welcome for collaborators in the mission or for those who are in the process of vocational discernment. José Ignacio García SJ, whom Alberto Ares will replace, will be from September the new director of the Cristianisme i Justícia study center (Barcelona): https://www.cristianismeijusticia.net/es  
Since 2014, the Austrian Intercultural Achievement Award (IAA) has been awarded annually to innovative projects that successfully open up new avenues for intercultural dialogue. The aim is to highlight and encourage small or large-scale actions implemented throughout the world by associations or individuals to encourage dialogue between cultures and religions. Among the 300 projects submitted in 2020 through the network of Austrian embassies, the association JRS France is the winner of the Intercultural Achievement Award 2020 in the category of Sustainable Project. The JRS Youth programme - "The challenge of reciprocity: Share your talents, dare to meet! "caught the attention of the jury. This programme allows young (or not so young) asylum seekers, refugees or locals to meet and get to know each other around common and creative activities that they co-facilitate on an equal footing. The members are in turn participants or facilitators, and thus actors in a programme that they build together. Expression (theatre, dance, singing, drawing, writing), sports (football, volleyball, basketball, yoga, dance), discussion cafés, inter-religious meetings, outings to be experienced together (hikes, dinners at local homes, visits to museums, urban walks, board games) are all activities that promote and cement mutual understanding. A variety of activities in an intercultural environment In 2020, the JRS Jeunes programme organised 468 activities in 9 cities in France, involving 1338 participants of 60 different nationalities, including 740 refugees and asylum seekers. The grant given by the Republic of Austria to JRS France will be used to finance and carry out future collective and interdisciplinary actions in the framework of this intercultural project. The Austrian Ambassador Michael Linhart presented Fr Antoine Paumard, Director of JRS France, and Ms Pauline Blain, JRS Youth Officer, with the IAA 2020 Award at a small ceremony on 10 February 2021. More info: