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  Dispatches is an e-mail bulletin of the JRS International Office. It features refugee news briefings and project updates from our people in the field.

  Chad: Investing in girls education

Educational programs in Chad encourage young women to stay in school. (Joeseph Thera/JRS).


Iriba, 11 October 2016 - In Chad, socio-cultural traditions and gender roles limit educational opportunities for refugee girls. Child marriage and forced marriage are widely practiced, causing many girls in secondary school to drop out early. Girls are also charged with domestic duties such as retrieving water, providing for the family, and taking care of children. These responsibilities along with societal and familial pressures lead to high dropout rates that are not seen amongst boys.

Many refugees in Chad fled conflict and genocide in Darfur over a decade ago. With renewed violence bringing more Darfurian refugees to Chad in 2013-4, there is little hope that they will ever be able to return. This protracted conflict has left many children that only know life in the camp. It is vital to provide education in order to prevent the creation of a lost generation. 

The Jesuit Refugee Service has served refugees in eastern Chad since 2006, and offers different levels of education in eight refugee camps. While approximately half of the students in JRS schools in Chad are female, decreases in school attendance and high dropout rates among girls in secondary school is all too common throughout the region. In three secondary schools where the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) operates, only 72 out of an initial 248 girls finished the school year. More than 70% of girls dropped out early. 

"When they get married, these young girls usually have to leave their family, their friends, and their community and move to their husband's house. Their studies are interrupted, removing another source of social support and education." says Radia, a student in her second year of high school in Iriba, a refugee site in Chad. She has seen first-hand the negative consequences from child marriages and forced marriages.

With child marriage there is a high risk of health complications during and after pregnancy both for the girls and their babies. These girls often lack the physical maturity and proper knowledge for motherhood. After marriage, girls are also subject to isolation and often experience abuse and mental health issues. 

Keeping girls in school will not only keep them healthy, safe, and allow them the opportunity for a better life, but it will also have a many benefits for the community and societal development. Educating girls results in economic growth, reduction of HIV/AIDS, and overall healthier families. The JRS staff fully incorporates this understanding into its educational structure and curriculum and takes extra steps to monitor girls' well-being to ensure they stay in school. JRS teaches specific programs such as Menstrual Hygiene Management that provides girls with health education and hygiene kits to give them the proper knowledge to stay healthy.

The JRS believes that refugee girls in Chad need support to continue and complete their studies. With many young mothers as students, JRS offers childcare to allow them to attend class. It is important to the organization that everyone, including staff, teachers, and family, should be involved in fostering a safe and supportive environment for girls to grow and learn. Literacy classes encourage girls to attend secondary school and take leadership roles in their communities. 

Radia calls on the world to take action: "I ask my parents, all members of the community, and the world to join to fight against child marriage and forced marriage, in order to give all girls the opportunity to grow normally and advocate for their own choices."

Radia, High school student 
Joseph Thera, JRS Chad Secondary School Project Coordinator
Sarah Morsheimer, JRS International Communications Assistant

Romania: JRS helps Iraqi refugee find treatment and hope

Mohamad smiles on his hospital bed after the second operation to mend his damaged leg in Bucharest, Romania (Photo: Gabriel Ilias / JRS Romania).


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. 

In 2014, JRS Romania was conducting a European Refugee Fund project delivering social assistance for refugees across the country. There, they travelled to Giurgiu where they met Mohamad at the reception centre of the General Inspectorate for Immigration.

The JRS team was impressed by his story but shocked by his wounds that constantly festered making him unable to walk. JRS Romania reacted by trying to get him to access the necessary health care but his situation was constantly worsening. An action was needed in order to save his leg from being amputated. JRS Romania took a stand against authorities so that Mohamad could be transferred when needed to Bucharest for specialized medical treatment.

JRS Romania eventually raised the necessary funds (around 2,000 euros) for surgery in a private hospital, the only hospital that could provide the proper treatment. On 8 February 2016, a stent graft was implanted in the popliteal artery. The medical intervention was successful and the doctors recommend antiplatelet treatment and medical rehabilitation. 

Sitting on his hospital bed, two days after the operation, Mohamad said: "I want to thank all the people that helped me with everything. Thanks to those sharing my story, telling the world that we are all people. Thanks to Dr. Burnei for operating on me, and for everything. Thanks for Bursa Binelui (Stock Exchange of Good, the online platform for the fundraising campaign) and to the people that donated. Because of them I had my leg fixed. Thank you, thank you..."

JRS Romania legal officer, Luiza Mutu who closely followed Mohamad's case said: "The first time I met Mohamad I saw a child that was frightened and in pain, but hadn't lost hope. While his situation was improving he was slowly turning from a kid to a teenager, hoping for a normal life. We made the first step in helping him reach his dream for a normal life, but more hard steps are ahead. I am glad that the first surgery was successful and I wish him to just be happy."

The first surgery repaired the blood vessels in his wounded leg and a second surgery recently repaired the bone and ligaments. Other surgeries will be needed in the future to reconstruct part of the ligaments and tissue in the foot in order for Mohamad to be able to fully use his foot and walk on it completely.

In June 2016, JRS Romania launched a fundraising campaign on the on-line platform Bursa Binelui in order to collect funds for the necessary surgery, as staff continued to accompany Mohamad.

Today, Mohamad is out of hospital and back in Giurgiu, at the foster home where he lives. The first cast was removed and replaced last week, and the second cast will stay on for another one to two months. Afterwards, the recovery program will begin and hopefully he will start walking again in the following months. He is very happy now that the surgery is over and is waiting for the next round of treatment so that he may one day walk freely again.


Background information:

JRS Romania does not have a special project for unaccompanied minors, but delivers assistance where there are emergencies, such as the case of Mohamad. Unfortunately, there are no statistics for the number of unaccompanied minors in Romania at the present time. In Romania last year the total number of new asylum seekers on the territory was 522, as recorded by the statistics of General Inspectorate for Immigration.

Article written by JRS Romania fundraising officer, Gabriel Ilias

Europe: Outsourcing responsibilities on refugee protection

South Sudanese girls internally displaced from another part of Maban county have settled with their families in an informal IDP settlement, Maban, South Sudan. In Maban county, one in 10 people are internally displaced (Andrew Ash/Jesuit Refugee Service).

The EU is outsourcing its responsibilities on refugee protection and giving financial incentives to countries to stop refugees reaching Europe. Making deals with countries with poor human rights records will not address the root causes of why people flee and it leaves refugees in life threatening situations.  

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.

ECRE, an alliance of 90 organisations in 38 countries protecting refugee rights across Europe, expresses deep concerns about Europe’s growing emphasis on externalisation of migration control, which has now moved centre stage. The EU is outsourcing its responsibilities on refugee protection and giving financial incentives to countries to stop refugees reaching Europe. Making deals with countries with poor human rights records will not address the root causes of why people flee and it leaves refugees in life threatening situations, ECRE states during its Annual General Conference in Berlin.

Agreements such as the EU-Turkey deal cannot be a blueprint for what the EU does on refugee protection. It is clear that the deal is failing on the most basic level: the respect for the human rights of people fleeing war and persecution. EU externalisation policies also make refugees – and the human rights violations against them – invisible to the European public. ECRE believes that it is critical to counter this dangerous trend by retaining human rights as a key objective of all European external action.

“The EU is now a global diplomatic actor as well as the world’s biggest donor and a major player in the humanitarian sector. Europe has the normative power to significantly improve the situation of refugees,” says Catherine Woollard, ECRE’s Secretary General. “It could do so much more to ensure refugee protection in regions of origin, through promoting stability, resilience and human rights. But never as an alternative to the right to asylum in Europe.”

ECRE seriously doubts that this deal-making approach will be effective. And overall, the credibility and identity of Europe depends on it being true to its values. Collectively, Europe must therefore assume its fair share of global responsibility for refugee protection.

Europe: JRS Eastern Africa on Europe’s role in migration, development and social justice

An Eritrean teenager plays a traditional instrument at the JRS Youth Centre in Mai Aini, Ethiopia. Many young men from the camp have faced grave human rights abuses while journeying to reach Europe (Christian Fuchs/Jesuit Refuge Service).


Berlin, 20 October 2016 – Beyond the so-called "refugee crisis" in Europe, countries bordering conflict around the world are under increasing pressure to care for people on the move. Attempts by policymakers to respond to refugees in a coordinated and dignified way have never been more important in order to ensure that the rights refugees are upheld.

This was the message Endashaw Debrework SJ, the director of Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa, gave to the Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development of German Parliament in a speech he delivered in Berlin on migration, development and social justice from an African perspective yesterday. 

In his presentation to the German MPs, Father Debrework illuminated the voices of refugees hailing from JRS projects in Eastern Africa where JRS provides education, psychosocial assistance, small-business grants, and emergency goods provision in five countries.  

He welcomed steps made by European governments to address mass migration, showing special appreciation to Germany for opening her doors to one million refugees in 2016. He also encouraged the parliamentarians to "prioritise human rights and justice" when devising and promoting migration policies with African countries. 

He emphasised that "funding countries with atrocious human rights records to stem migration (such as Sudan, Egypt or Eritrea) only perpetuates cycles of abuse and repression that cause people to flee in the first place."

Similarly, he said, when aid and trade are conditional upon the reception of refugees or migrants back into a country of persecution, the lives of many are compromised – especially when that return is involuntary.

"When European nations renowned for their respect of human rights, begin to push refugees back…an example is set to the Global South," he said referencing the Kenyan government's recent push to send hundreds of thousands of Somalis back to their war-torn home.

"Most of these returns, we fear, will not be voluntary and will result in further (human rights abuses)…We also suspect many of these individuals will go elsewhere, perhaps joining those migrating to Europe."

Father Debrework then went on to propose five approaches to European policy makers in their pursuit of improved migration mechanisms in Africa, including: sustainable community development; integration in first countries of asylum; safe and legal passages; voluntary return; and search and rescue missions:

He first emphasised that development aid must focus on creating jobs in source countries of migration as well as on promoting integration for refugees in their first countries of asylum. 

"Local integration in refugees' first country of asylum, usually one close to home, is an ideal situation. We have seen this model work successfully in Uganda where refugees are allowed and encouraged to work, study and, ultimately, contribute back to their host communities…

Uganda is an anomaly, however, as too many nations instil strict work, documentation and movement restrictions making the possibility of rebuilding life impossible and provoking them to leave again."

He also stressed the importance of investing in post-conflict countries and in promoting peace so that refugees can sustainably and voluntarily return home one day.

"For as long as senseless wars wage on in places like South Sudan, Somalia and Syria return will be out of the question for most.…In countries that are truly post-conflict, adequate investments in infrastructure must be made. Refugees need homes, jobs, schools and just laws to return to."  

Father then went on to urge Germany to continue their resettlement model and to work with other European countries to ensure other safe passages for refugees through family reunification and humanitarian visas.

"This will save lives by deterring refugees from putting their lives into the hands of smugglers. It will reduce the census of the Mediterranean and the Saharan cemeteries. There is no reason why husbands should lose their wives to organ traffickers in Egyptian deserts or why parents should watch their children drown in the Mediterranean while these families seek an international right to protection we have already agreed they deserve." 

Ultimately, he said, the international community must not let fear and bigotry stand in the way of rescue for the distressed and welcome for the displaced.

"Please remember that when migrants come to the shores of Europe they do so because a dignified or safe life was untenable (on the African continent). We must work together to find innovative ways to make space (them) – whether in Berlin or Nairobi, Paris or Addis Ababa…I assure you that refugees contribute to our societies in Africa and they will to yours too.

Even as the shock of capsizing boats wears off and the media crews to move on, we need to remember that before their nationality or asylum claim or documents, refugees are human beings. Let us show love with rescue, show compassion with action, show solidarity with sanctuary."

For further information, please contact:

Angela Wells, JRS Eastern Africa Communications Officer

  JRS DISPATCHES is sent from the International Office of the Jesuit Refugee Service, CP 6139, 00195 Roma, Italy. Email:; JRS online:; Publisher: Tom Smolich SJ; Editor: Martina Bezzini; Translation: Carles Casals (Spanish), Nicole Abbeloos (French), Simonetta Russo and Chiara Peri (Italian).

Investing in girls education [Dispatches no. 400]
Editor: Martina Bezzini