Where we work
JRS programmes, found in 50 countries worldwide, provide assistance to nearly 950,000 individuals. This service provision is overseen by 10 regional offices with support from the International Office in Rome. For the contact details of each regional office, click on the map and see the details below.

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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.

Oscar Spooner

+32 2 250 3225

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.

JRS works to mainstream human rights at Frontex

Brussels, 07 August 2014 – For two years now, Stefan Kessler, senior policy officer at JRS Europe has been the co-chair of the consultative forum to Frontex, the EU agency for external border security headquartered in Warsaw. JRS Europe, took part regular discussions with the management board and staff of Frontex in order to mainstream human rights in their border security work. The first annual report of the consultative forum is out now.

Spain-Morocco: borders before people

Madrid, 06 August 2014 – A special report ‘Lives at the Southern Borders’ based on two fact-finding missions to the Spanish borders with Morocco, calls on the Spanish government and the European Union to put human rights before border security. The report and recommendations were submitted to the Spanish Ombudsman at the end of July.

Malta: desperation drives boat migrants – new report

Valletta, 24 July 2014 – JRS Malta hosted the launch of ‘Going West’, a report on mixed migration from the Horn of Africa to Libya and Europe, based on extensive field research by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS). The Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta was full as a lively discussion and debate ensued.

European Court: migrants must not be detained as criminals

Luxembourg, 17 July 2014 - The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that migrants must not be held in prison pending their removal if a Member State has a specialized detention centre in any part of its territory.

France: more than space to live, the Welcome project

Paris, 20 June 2014 – Swastik came from a normal family in rural Bangladesh. Her father was a farmer and her mother a tailor. Most of her life was not so different from those around her, until her sister was kidnapped and murdered and she was forced to flee for her life. Without going into the details of exactly what happened, it is suffice to say she was persecuted.

JRS Europe – Annual Report 2013

Brussels, 16 June 2014 – Europe’s indifference to the suffering of millions of refugees seeking protection makes a mockery of its claim to moral leadership in the world today, said JRS Europe as it launched its annual report.

Letter to European Council President: human rights of migrants must be top priority

Brussels, 05 June 2014 – JRS Europe, together with four other Christian NGO partners, has sent a letter to European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy urging him to prioritise the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers in future EU Migration and Asylum Policy.

Kosovo: keeping arms open to asylum seekers

Kosovo, 26 May 2014 – A new asylum reception centre in Kosovo built with EU funds is housing a low number of migrants at the moment. Nevertheless, the local government does not have the money to provide for basic needs such as books, medication or hygienic packs. JRS fills in as many gaps as possible. But Kosovo needs to invest and prepare for higher refugee flows in the future.

Morocco: a distant view to a place of protection

Morocco, 26 May 2014 – JRS Europe visits forced migrants literally living on the margins of society: on a mountain in Morocco. Destitution and desperation drive them to attempt to cross high barbed wire fences into the two Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. But recently, 300 migrants faced Spanish rubber bullets and tear gas at Ceuta, killing 15. JRS Europe condemns this flagrant violation of EU law and demands that migrants coming to Europe have access to asylum procedures.

Time to put words into action

13 May 2014 - This week a boat carrying 400 migrants sank off the coast of Lampedusa. Up to 40 may have died and many more gone missing. The latest tragedy in the Mediterranean shows that the EU cannot dither any longer on creating safe and legal channels for protection seekers to come to the EU.

Voices of Europe unite to help Syria's refugees

Brussels, 9 May 2014 – The Jesuit Refugee Service, as part of the ECRE coalition of more than 100 NGOs across Europe, joins the Europe Act Now campaign to call on European leaders to protect refugees fleeing the Syrian war.

Germany: Europe can do more to help Syria's refugees

9 May 2014 - JRS Europe and other NGOs support the German Parliament's call for an EU conference to resettle more of Syria's refugees to Europe.

Morocco not a safe place for forced migrants in need of protection

Brussels, 15 April 2014 - JRS Europe publishes a new policy paper on its recent visit to northern Morocco and Spanish enclave Melilla.

Call for Europeans to vote responsibly in the next EU elections

Brussels, 14 April 2014 - The Initiative for Christians in Europe (IXE) launches a website to empower Christians to take part in the EU elections of 22-25 May.

Prisons are not a place for migrants

Brussels, 17 December 2013 - A spate of recent decisions by local courts in the German federal state of Bavaria, spurred by JRS Germany, is leading to the end of migrant detention in prisons.

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