In Europe, JRS is chiefly concerned about immigration detention and forcibly displaced people who face destitution. With national policies throughout the region prescribing the detention of undocumented arrivals, stringent asylum laws and practices, and a hostile reception to asylum seekers as likely as not, JRS offices in Europe have their work cut out for them. There are 14 national offices as well as contact persons in another seven countries.
Although JRS Europe was officially established as a region only in 1994, Jesuits had been reaching out to refugees across the continent long before that. One of the very first projects set up by JRS, in 1981, was Centro Astalli in Rome. The first Jesuit charged with the international coordination of JRS, Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ, recalls: "We recognised a severe refugee problem with Eritrean and Somali refugees right on our own doorstep in Rome. So we set up Centro Astalli to provide food and shelter, in the basement of the same building where St Ignatius and his companions had helped the victims on the famine in 1538." Centro Astalli continues its work today, serving hundreds of refugees.
Apart from offering support in the community, JRS teams started to work in immigration detention from early on. Today, JRS teams in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Romania, the United Kingdom, and in the western Balkans regularly visit detention centres to offer psychosocial, pastoral and legal support. In most of these places, and in France and Italy, services are also provided in the community, including food, lodging, social services, healthcare, legal aid, language and computer courses and help to find work.
Externalisation is another pressing concern. In 2008, JRS expanded to accompany asylum seekers who are stuck on the external borders of the EU, unable to reach Europe. Projects were set up in Morocco and Ukraine: a kindergarten and safe place for women in Casablanca and safe accommodation and legal counselling in Lviv, western Ukraine.
In Brussels, the JRS Europe office is active in advocacy at EU level, monitoring and analysing laws on asylum and migration, coordinating regional research, and taking every opportunity to connect refugees’ experiences to policymaking.
As part of the Advocacy Network for Destitute Forced Migrants (ANDES), in 2010, JRS published a report, Living in Limbo
, on forced migrant destitution in 12 EU countries plus Ukraine. The research reveals that destitution is a European-wide problem often caused by state policies that aim to exclude large categories of migrants from society.
The year 2010 was also marked with the completion of research on vulnerability in detention. The conclusion is that detention is a very negative measure that increases everyone’s susceptibility to further harm, not only persons with officially recognised vulnerabilities but otherwise healthy persons as well.
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JRS Europe is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office serves refugee and other displaced persons in more than 14 countries in Europe. Services include: offering support to asylum seekers in detention; giving legal advice to asylum seekers and irregular migrants; counselling to those traumatised by persecution and flight; serving as chaplains in open reception or accommodation centres, as well as, in closed facilities or premises (detention); and providing food and shelter to destitute migrants.
Europe: Reform proposals for asylum will affect the most vulnerable
3 February 2017 – The reform proposals for the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) collectively amount to the death of asylum in Europe by a thousand cuts our working paper, published today finds.
Italy: Young refugees represent hope for a peaceful future
Rome, 16 January 2017 - On the occasion of the 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, many refugees, volunteers and friends of JRS Italy - Centro Astalli met Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, newly elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Europe, Journeys of Hope postscript: Longing for life
Brussels, 20 December 2016 – In this post-script to our Journeys of Hope series, Danielle Vella pays tribute to Behzad, a 28-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who lost his life in a tragic accident in Austria.
Romania: JRS helps Iraqi refugee find treatment and hope
Bucharest, 24 October 2016 - Mohamad is an Iraqi teenager who took refuge in Romania in 2014 when he was 15 years old. He had to flee because of protracted conflict in his home country that persists to this day, according to reports in the international press. During an attack, his parents were killed in front of him. Mohamad was shot in the legs but the surgery performed in poor conditions at a hospital in Iraq managed to worsen the situation of his wound.
Europe: Outsourcing responsibilities on refugee protection
Berlin, 18 October 2016 – JRS Europe as one of 90 member organisations of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), endorses and shares the following statement issued during ECRE’s general assembly in Berlin.
Democratic Republic of Congo
United States of America
Central African Republic