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Europe projects

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.

+32 2 554 02 20

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.
Conditions at Moria are “shameful

19 NGOs decry conditions at the site, now worse than ever, and call for sustainable solutions to both decongest the islands and improve conditions across first receptions centres in North Aegean Sea.

Help is no crime: stand with volunteers against the criminalisation of solidarity

Brussels, 7 September 2018 – The arrest of Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder is the latest case of a worrying trend towards the criminalisation of solidarity in Europe. The two volunteers were arrested by the Greek authorities on 21 August for helping refugees and migrants arriving by sea on Lesbos island. With this joint letter, European civil society organisations call on the Greek authorities to release Sarah and Sean while their trial is pending.

International Youth Day

Brussels, 12 August 2018 – On International Youth Day, JRS Europe draws attention to the situation of migrant and asylum seeking children and teenagers in detention in Europe.

Maya: A Refugee Mother on a Challenging Journey

Washington, D.C. 6 August 2018 – An hour north of Athens, in the town of Oinofyta, refugees many from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have been given shelter in an abandoned industrial warehouse. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece visits the camp weekly to provide an activity for children and identify those most in need of support. Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Oinofyta with JRS Greece.

We do not forget Syria

Brussels, 30 July 2018 – Today, JRS Portugal organises the event ‘We do not forget Syria’ to reflect on what is happening in the country after eight years of conflict and to share the experiences of our JRS colleagues working there.

South Sudan
United Kingdom

Democratic Republic of Congo
Sri Lanka
South Africa
United States of America
Central African Republic