Welcome to voices
Part of the mandate of JRS is to help give a voice to refugees. This section is dedicated to just that. Here you will find stories from refugees, their successes and the challenges they face rebuilding their lives.



Italy: wait, wait, wait, the asylum procedure
08 October 2014
Sicily, 8 October 2014 – Italy’s asylum procedure was clearly a source of frustration, bewilderment and worry for the people we interviewed. Nothing new in this – asylum seekers in other host countries would say exactly the same about the unfriendly and confusingly bureaucratic systems they trust will deliver the protection they seek.
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Italy: you have to queue for everything, life at CARA di Mineo
22 October 2014
Sicily, 22 October 2014 – When migrants land in Lampedusa or Sicily, the registration process begins. They are accommodated in first-level reception facilities and, once processed, those seeking refugee status are taken to a CARA (see glossary) to await the decision on their request for asylum.
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Italy: I went nowhere so what's the point?
15 October 2014
Sicily, 15 October 2014 – The eyes of Kofi left the most lasting impression. Big, black and mournful, filled with tears, they willed us to understand his words, simple and repetitive in themselves.
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Jordan: finding safety for her children
05 June 2014
Irbid, 5 June 2014 – "I was in Zaatari for a year, but we're originally from Homs. I left because my kids were getting sick there. It's a dirty place that was getting dirtier and the drinking water wasn't clean. I left Syria to keep my children safe", said Maram.
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Panama: Julian, a young Colombian refugee, lives without fear and with hope
15 November 2013
Panama City, 15 November 2013 – "Today, I can say I live in peace in Panama City; we don't have much, but I'm no longer scared. I go to school, I belong to a drama group; mum and dad both have jobs; and I've friends both at school and in my neighbourhood. We're refugees. Mum's happy now. She hopes with the new migration law we'll get permanent residency".
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Lebanon: devoted Syrian father places education above all else
10 October 2013
Beirut, 10 October 2013 – Throughout my time working for JRS in Kafar Zabad, I have encountered many inspiring and resilient families and children. People who have been able to place the needs of others ahead of their own. One such person was a Syrian father whose dedication towards his daughter touched me deeply. Notwithstanding his own struggle to get by, he put the education of his daughter, her future, first.
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Kenya: higher education delivers a learning experience
23 September 2013
Kakuma, Kenya, 23 September 2013 — Liz Lock, the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Coordinator at Kakuma camp in Kenya, shares her personal experience working with students at the camp where approximately 120,000 refugees reside, hailing from a dozen different countries. The Jesuit Refugee Service has worked with refugees in the camp since 1994.
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Italy: a message from Pope Francis to Jesuit Refugee Service
12 September 2013
Rome, 12 September 2013 – Pope Francis made an official visit to the JRS Italy soup kitchen in Rome on Tuesday. Immediately following his visit, the Holy Father delivered this speech to those gathered in the Chiesa del Gesù, a Jesuit church in the centre of Rome where the headquarters of JRS Italy is located.
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Italy: a message from JRS Italy Director to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Father Giovanni La Manna, JRS Italy Director, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
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Italy: a message from Carol, Syrian refugee, to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Carol, a Syrian refugee, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
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Italy: a message from Adam, Sudanese refugee from Darfur, to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Adam, a Sudanese refugee from Darfur, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
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Colombia: free from fear
20 August 2013
Cúcuta, 20 August 2013 – "I would like peace, peace forever, no more war, no more killings". For Concepción*, peace essentially means justice and reconciliation and is her deepest wish and hope.
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Syria: family mornings in Damascus
03 May 2013
Damascus, 3 May 2013 – How lovely is a meeting between human beings, a meeting in which we desire to show our love and feelings towards each other. I felt something similar to this when I met the families at the JRS St Albert Hurtado House in Bab Touma. Neither I nor they had known each other before, but I felt as if we had known each other for a long time.
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Jordan: school, a place where communities are built
15 March 2013
Amman, 15 March 2013 – Life is full of haphazard coincidences. That is how I discovered the Jesuit Refugee Service. On a study trip in the Amman looking to interview refugees for my research, I was given a list of telephone numbers, one of which was for JRS Jordan.
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Turkey: what we can do, we do
19 February 2013
Ankara, 19 February 2013 — The Jesuit Refugee Service in Ankara owes a debt of gratitude to 20 expat volunteers who on a regular basis volunteer their time and donate items to the JRS project. In the last month alone, JRS received almost 200 brand new blankets, 30 brand new jackets and 50 used jackets. The response to a call for two wheelchairs was answered within two hours.
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Thailand: voices from the factory
17 January 2013
Mae Sot, 17 January 2013 – Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, more than 100,000 of whom work in Mae Sot's factories.
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Indonesia: escape from Rakhine state
23 November 2012
Cisarua, 23 November 2012 – JRS met Noor in Cisarua at the end of October 2012. Eight years ago, he fled his home town of Buthidaung town in the Burmese state of Rakhine. A member of the Rohingya ethnic minority, Noor tells a harrowing tale of struggle and survival in the face of poverty and persecution. This is his story.
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Uganda: a long struggle
30 August 2012
Juba, 30 August 2012 – My name is Reuben* and I'm a former refugee, now living back in my home country, South Sudan. I want to share my story about the support JRS provided me over the years.
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Malawi: the JRS I could see and touch
16 July 2012
Ohio, 16 July 2012 - I remember life in Dzaleka camp in Malawi from 1995 to 1997 both as a blessing and as one of the most stressful situations I've ever been in. It was a blessing because I had a place where I legally belonged. It was home. I was alive, accounted for, fed, clothed and I could see a nurse or a doctor if I became ill. There were no more sounds of guns, grenades or bombs. It was calm; I could actually sleep. Before long, I handed over the tent in which I had been living and moved into a house. Even if many shared one house, a refugee camp with houses was a treat.
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France: Welcome...
16 July 2012
Paris, 16 July 2012 – He is there, squatting on the kitchen floor and peeling potatoes, clearly feeling very much at home, as if he were back in the Afghan countryside. "Good evening! Had a good day?"Actually I've had a bad day and his welcoming smile makes me feel brighter; I'm glad of the ray of sunlight in my kitchen.
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Syria: JRS centre offers a fresh start to Iraqis
28 May 2012
Aleppo, 28 May 2012 – After his daughter, Ghufran, was shot in the leg and his home and business attacked, Bassam Abdullah had reached his limit. Six days later he fled. In 2010, three years later, his wife and four children came across the JRS Deir Vartan Centre, a stroke of luck which changed his life.
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Democratic Republic of Congo: fleeing domestic violence in the night
03 May 2012
Goma, 3 May 2012 – A story of domestic violence in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern Congo, the protagonist, Mama Jocelyne, is an ordinary woman, one of so many forced to bear abuse in addition to living the midst of armed conflict.
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South Sudan: a role model for students and teachers
04 May 2012
Nimule, 4 May 2012 – Esther is a role model for her community. A secondary education teacher of commerce and accounting at Fulla Secondary School, Nimule, and a mother of three, she exudes happiness, confidence and professionalism. However, as a former refugee, the journey to this point has not been easy. She attributes her success to the support of JRS over a period of nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2011.
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Ethiopia: recreation eases difficulty of camp life
03 May 2012
Dollo Ado, 3 May 2012 – My first experience with refugees was in Mai-Aini camp in northwest Ethiopia. I worked with Jesuit Refugee Service as a Sports and Recreational Activities Officer there for just under a year. Eighty percent of the camp residents were young, male Eritrean refugees, most of whom had fled their country for political reasons. The life-affirming challenges I met there prepared me for my current role in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.
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Philippines: carpentry in a post-conflict and post-disaster community
16 April 2012
Bubong, 16 April 2012 – Fortunato is the carpenter JRS hired to build permanent houses for the 50 Muslim families who lost their homes during the typhoon Sendong that hit Bubong, Lanao del Sur in December 2011.
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Cambodia: surviving mines and war was just the beginning
05 April 2012
Siem Reap, 5 April 2012 – "If you write about my story, you'll never finish". Han chuckles, revealing a mouthful of dark, empty crevices. Her teeth are yellowed and cracked, but don't be fooled by her appearance life has not worn her down yet.
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Rwanda: education, a new outlook on life for young refugees
29 March 2012
Kibuye, 29 March 2012 – For Benjamin Twizere, an opportunity to participate in the JRS cooking and baking course has given him a new lease on life. One of 65 refugee students in western Rwanda offered a chance by JRS to learn a trade; he grabbed it with both hands.
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Burundi: Pascal's story, one of dignity and hope for the future
20 March 2012
Bujumbura, 20 March 2012 – At the end of 2012, JRS will close its projects in Burundi. After 17 years of providing education and building livelihoods, former refugees assisted by the organisation are now in a position to lead independent and dignified lives with hope for a better future. The family of Pascal Ntirujimana is one of those stories of hope and relative prosperity.
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Cambodia: landmine survivor advocates for change
23 November 2011
Geneva, 23 November 2011 — With just days to go until the 11th Meeting of States Parties in Cambodia, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines interviewed Song Kosal, from the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines. Here Kosal speaks about her experience after a landmine accident and the need to spread the word about landmines.
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Cambodia: veteran landmine campaigner seeks concrete results from UN conference
22 November 2011
Geneva, 21 November 2011 — The International Campaign to Ban Landmines recently interviewed Sr Denise Coghlan, Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia Director – and member of the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines. Sr Denise has been based in Cambodia and involved in the landmine issue and the campaign for more than 20 years.
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Ukraine: refugee family finds no protection
29 June 2011
Brussels, 29 June 2011 – Hakimi is a 38-year-old Afghan mother of four. She came to Ukraine fleeing from war and danger in Afghanistan, but her journey was not a direct one.
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Thailand: beyond the playground - young girl makes the most of education
03 June 2011
Bangkok, 03 June 2011 – We first met Khin Chor Su at her elementary school. Her teachers were impressed with her dedication to her studies and thought we should meet her to hear about the importance of education for Burmese migrants in Ranong, Thailand.
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Timor Leste: a new home leads to a new future
11 May 2011
Dili, 11 May, 2011 – Ms Angelina Fernandes was born in 1970 in a district near Dili. When she got married she and her husband moved to Suco Camea, Dili. Not long after that, her husband died, leaving her alone with her three children, 15, 13 and two. During the 2006 fighting with Indonesia, she fled with her kids and took refuge at the parish of Santa Teresinha in Camea.
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Kenya: Students’ voices from Kakuma
21 March 2011
Kakuma, 21 March 2011 - Almost 60 refugees now have access to higher education in Kakuma refugee camp, after JRS officially launched a distance-education project with Jesuit universities in the US. While 35 students are enrolled for a three-year Diploma in Liberal Studies course, 21 participate in a three-month certificate course in Psychosocial Case Management. Here are some of their reactions on the day of the launch:
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Thailand: Mary's House is home to many
31 January 2011
Wiang Hang, 31 January, 2011– Mary shuffles slowly through her home. At 75-years old, it takes her longer to get around than it used to. After running her orphanage – modestly named Mary’s House – for 11 years, she admits that she feels her age.
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Thailand: From fear to future -- becoming a leader after persecution
28 January 2011
Mae Hon Song, 16 December 2010 – As Khu Bue Reh sits at his desk in the corner of a dusty classroom in Northern Thailand’s Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp, the responsibility of his new position ways heavily on his slight shoulders.
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Thailand: Spending teen years detained
13 January 2011
Bangkok, 14 January 2010 – Looking at Divea, she seems like an average 18-year-old girl. Wearing a fashionable denim skirt with a t-shirt and long, black hair, she could easily fit in at her high school back in Sri Lanka. But after speaking with Divea for a few minutes, you may forget that she is only 18. Unfortunately, she seems to have forgotten as well. After spending over a year detained in Bangkok's Immigration Detention Centre, she says she has been forced to grow up fast.
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Kenya: Somali widower counsels community despite caring for five children
25 November 2010
In May 2010 my wife Foos passed away and left me five children, all underage, while I am at the retired age of 64 years and have no other person who can take care of them if I today pass away.
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Rwanda: former refugee shares her story
27 September 2010
I was born in 1979 in the district of Kayonza in Kabare II, a sector of Rwanda’s Eastern Province. In 1994, I fled my country due to the war. After moving to Akagera, I crossed to Tanzania with my parents, one brother and two sisters. We left behind two other brothers: one in Kigali, the other in Cyangugu. They both had to flee to Congo but happily in 1995 they could join us in the refugee camp of Cyabarisa II.
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Timor Leste: Returnees find hardship at home
26 July 2010
Dili, 26 July 2010 – Helena is a 50-year-old widow living in the Timorese village of Becora. Her day starts early. By 6am she is washing clothes for a local laundrette. The small amount of money she receives is just enough to feed her four children and keep three of them in school. There simply isn’t enough money to pay the fees for her 8-year-old son.
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Timor Leste: Ageing couple receive new home
26 July 2010
Dili, 26 July 2010 – Maria Simao and her husband live with their 40 year-old daughter, Jacinta, in the hamlet of Moris Foun, about an hour’s drive, along a mountainous and pot-holed road, from the capital, Dili.
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Cambodia: Without rights and opportunities, integration is an illusion for urban refugees
23 July 2010
Phnom Penh, 23 July 2010 – Htin and his wife, Myaing, are recognised refugees from Burma. They managed to escape persecution from the Burmese junta for their pro-democratic activities, only to find themselves struggling with day-to-day life in Cambodia.
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Cambodia: Somali refugee resettled in the US
23 July 2010
Phnom Penh, 23 July 2010 – Omar came to the JRS office the day he was about to leave for America. He brought with him a piece of paper with ‘St Louis’ written on it. He sat in my office and we looked at a map of America and found St Louis. He asked me if it was very cold there.
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Ethiopia: I came with empty hands
20 June 2010
In 2005, I fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with my wife and three children because of the civil war. It took us weeks to arrive at the Ethiopian border after having crossed Uganda and Kenya. When we finally reached the capital, Addis Ababa, our clothes were tattered and we were weak. We presented our cases and sought asylum.
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Malta: instability hinders integration
20 June 2010
Jean has a degree in Communications and he worked as a journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His reporting activities about the events in the DRC resulted in his life being threatened and eventually he was forced to flee the country.
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Kenya: someone who really cares
20 June 2010
When I fled Somalia I did not do so because of the war. You get used to gunshots and shelling. I fled because of personal problems. My stepfather owed money to a certain man who kept asking my mother for it, long after she had been divorced from him.
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Thailand: Living in fear of detention and deportation
20 June 2010
Az Bhatti fled Pakistan due to religious persecution in September 2008. He is one of an estimated 2,600 urban refugees and asylum seekers living in Bangkok, Thailand. Az Bhatti is from a religious minority group called the Ahmadiyya who are considered heretical by orthodox Muslims in Pakistan. A number of laws have been passed that make it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to profess, practice and preach their faith. “We can’t use Muslim verses. We can’t even say salaam alaikum,” says Az sadly.
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South Africa: success stories of refugee integration
20 June 2010
Being in a foreign country as a refugee, a migrant or an asylum seeker is not as easy as one would think. We always wonder what it would be like to go to another country to seek refuge, safety and protection. We are sure that many people like us asked themselves these questions, but unfortunately today we find ourselves in a foreign country.
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South Africa: fear of the unknown
20 June 2010
My name is Tshela Mukendi and I am a single mother of six from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have seen death; I have smelt it and I have touched it. Through the grace of God, I was able to survive. I found refuge in South Africa. But today I am afraid. I am afraid of death. I thought I could put the thought of death behind me but here I am today in South Africa living in fear of death.
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Venezuela: without documentation, rebuilding the lives of refugees is anything but easy
20 June 2010
“I used to live in Cúcuta (Colombia) until I was forced to come here after being threatened by paramilitaries. I had a brother who was demobilised (from the paramilitaries); he had stepped down and they were looking for him. For them it was easier to find me because my husband was a musician at the time. He was playing in village called, La Floresta, when they realised he was my husband.
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Panama: living in safety, but denied his rights
20 June 2010
"I used to live in Juradó, Colombia. We fled there due to insecurity caused by subversive, guerilla, and paramilitary groups. There were some many abuses of authority. They obliged people to supply them with services. If they refused, there were consequences. If you agreed to supply one group with services, you would have problems with another. They would kill you. It was a real problem to be there. We were caught in the middle. On 12 December 1999, Juradó fell to the guerillas and they took all the food and the petrol. Subsequently, they forced us, the whole population, to leave the area. At that moment we decided to flee to nearby Panama.
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