Thirty years after the genesis of JRS Asia Pacific, the work has grown to assist forcibly displaced persons in seven countries: Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Timor Leste and Thailand, serving more than 310,000 individuals*.
In 1981, the then Jesuit superior, Pedro Arrupe SJ, called a meeting in Bangkok to develop JRS Asia Pacific. He saw first-hand the needs of refugees in Thailand. Realising their need for emergency care, he appointed a local team of Jesuits and laypeople to do the job. From an emergency response to crisis, the work of JRS quickly expanded towards a longer-term commitment.
Initially, refugees were expected to wait in camps much longer, and were more likely to be rejected for resettlement to third countries. They faced a more unwelcoming reception in countries of first asylum. Thus, JRS began helping these refugees prepare for an uncertain future, offering educational and cultural services, as well as helping them to participate in processes which shape their lives; an approach which would characterise future interventions of JRS.
Today, while the main focus of JRS is still the provision of education services, the organisation also seeks to ensure the most vulnerable do not fall through the cracks. This has led JRS to become involved in natural disasters and mass displacements, helping those forgotten by others, and enhance its work restoring livelihoods through the provision of training, materials and small grants and promoting women's empowerment.
This shift of focus has been accelerated by the increasing urbanisation of refugees, leaving many living in poverty without essential services. In response JRS organises support groups, psychosocial counselling services and legal services, putting refugees in contact with other service providers where necessary. With little support in urban areas, JRS focuses on accompanying refugees through the asylum determination procedures and the stresses of those living in detention centres.
In Australia and Thailand, JRS accompanies refugees and asylum seekers in immigration detention centres, offering medical support, legal aid and food supplements. While education services are provided to Burmese migrants and refugees in Thailand, adult literacy and vocational training services are provided throughout the region.
In the Philippines and Timor Leste, JRS has worked with persons internally displaced by conflict, offering assistance during their stay in camps and as they seek to reintegrate into the community.
In Indonesia, JRS works in post-conflict and –disaster situation. Following the massive loss of life in the 2004 tsunami and the subsequent peace accord in Aceh, and after the emergency phase, JRS begin providing communities with education services, workshops on conflict resolution and reconciliation, and assistance on early warning procedures.
* This figure includes emergency food, material and medical assistance offered to 200,000 persons in immigration detention centres in Mae Sot and Bangkok.
Fr. Bambang A. Sipayung SJ
+66 2 640 9590
JRS Asia Pacific is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service. JRS offers a human and pastoral service to refugees and the communities who host them through a wide range of rehabilitation and relief activities. Services – including programmes of pastoral care, education for children and adults, social services and counselling, and healthcare - are tailored to meet local needs according to available resources. The regional office serves refugees and other displaced persons in Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.
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