Living in Limbo. Forced migrant destitution in Europe

Today Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe releases a report on destitution of forced migrants in twelve EU Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine). The report shows that it is not fate but policies of states that completely exclude certain groups of migrants from any official assistance and leave them in distress and penury. Access to housing, health care, education, welfare and work are especially worrisome. The policies across the different states are not coherent: But they are violating the human rights of the affected migrants and cause severe social problems. The EU must develop laws that ensure respect of human rights for everybody regardless of status.

During the research for this report, JRS met a group of irregular migrants in a park in Spain. They were six young men all from Burkina Faso who had been in Spain for between three months and one year. Some spoke Spanish very fluently.. All of them were undocumented. Their aim was to work and earn enough money to support their families and to eventually return. In Burkina Faso they had no perspective but in Spain they only could find odd jobs such as car washing. They lived on the streets, in parks, some in apartments of friends. They did not receive any social assistance. “We are in an impasse”, one of them said, “without perspectives neither in Burkina nor in Spain.”

Whereas the situation differs to some extent from one Member State to the other, several common threads can be discerned throughout Europe. “States have adopted laws and policies that to a large extent exclude certain groups of migrants from access to basic social rights”, says Stefan Kessler, Senior Policy Officer with JRS Europe. “Destitute migrants have no or very limited access to public goods and services under law in terms of health care, employment, housing, financial support and material assistance such as food and clothing. Even if access to goods and services is guaranteed under law, it is often denied in practice due to complex administrative procedures, unclear laws and lack of knowledge of the service providers. Furthermore, many destitute migrants who stay illegally on the territory fear detention and removal and for this reason do not try to gain State support.”

Migrants become stuck in a downward spiral of destitution. It affects their physical and mental health. The risk of being pushed into depression or ending up on the streets is very high.

JRS Europe recalls that human rights apply to every person, regardless of nationality or legal status. The policies of EU Member States are clearly violating these human rights of the affected migrants and cause severe social problems.

JRS appeals to governments of EU Member States to immediately change their policies in order to ensure that everyone has access to basic social rights such as housing, education, social assistance or work. The European Union, in turn, must develop stricter regulations forcing governments to guarantee access to those rights. In particular, the European Parliament is encouraged to set up an investigation into the situation of destitute forced migrants in the EU Member States and publicly take a firm stance on this issue.

The report can be accessed at http://www.jrseurope.org/news_releases/ANDES%20report2010.htm.

JRS Ireland Presents ECDL Certificates

On Friday the 12th March 4 students from the JRS Computer Class received certificates for passing ECDL exams (European Computer Driving Licence). 

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"Integrating Limerick" Plan Launched

‘Integrating Limerick’, a two-year plan for the city and county drawn up by the Limerick Integration Working Group, was launched on Friday 5 May by Minister for Integration John Curran TD.



Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland and Joint Chair of the Group, explained the need for the plan at the launch: “The rapidly changing face, and indeed faces, of Limerick City and County present significant opportunities but also significant challenges. Integration is a very important issue for the region as the estimated 16,000 migrants that have located here form an important part of our labour market and local economy and are key to the continued growth of the region. This Plan seeks to enable them to fully participate in society, by promoting an inclusive and dynamic environment in Limerick in which all residents are valued, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnic background.” See the full press release below.

Minister launches integration strategy for Limerick

The Minister for Integration, John Curran, T.D. officially launched the Limerick City and County Integration Plan 2010-12 today.

“Integrating Limerick”, which has been developed by the Limerick Integration Working Group, is focused on actions supporting the integration of Limerick’s estimated 16,000 migrants into society.

The priority actions outlined in this Plan include enhancing participation of all communities in the social and cultural life of Limerick City and County; improving representation of minority communities in local governance and representative groups; providing equal opportunities for all by improving accessibility to rights and services, information and training; and promoting the acquisition of English language skills by migrants and integration in the mainstream education system.

Eugene Quinn, Joint Chair of the Limerick Integration Working Group explained that the new Plan was the result of a cross sectoral and community wide approach to promoting interculturalism in Limerick.

Addressing today’s launch event in The Hunt Museum in Limerick, he said: “The rapidly changing face, and indeed faces, of Limerick City and County present significant opportunities but also significant challenges. Integration is a very important issue for the region as the estimated 16,000 migrants that have located here form an important part of our labour market and local economy and are key to the continued growth of the region. This Plan seeks to enable them to fully participate in society, by promoting an inclusive and dynamic environment in Limerick in which all residents are valued, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnic background.”

Mr. Quinn continued: “ In the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, we hope the actions contained in the Plan will enhance the lives of all who live and work in Limerick, will challenge discrimination where it occurs and will ultimately celebrate the diversity that is now part of everyday life in the City and County. In a wider context this Plan will be considered along with Interagency Initiatives for Travellers and Regeneration Plans to ensure coherence across all integration initiatives.”

Operating under the Social Inclusion Measures Committees of both Limerick City and County, the Limerick Integration Working Group (IWG) was established in 2007 with the aim of bringing together statutory, community and voluntary bodies to address integration needs of migrant and host communities in Limerick. A key objective of the IWG was to develop an Integration Plan for both local authority areas.

IWG member groups include Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council, Doras Luimní, An Garda Síochána, FÁS, Department of Education and Science, Department of Social and Family Affairs, Health Service Executive, University of Limerick, Integration and Social Inclusion Centre of Ireland, Limerick City Adult Education Service, Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland, County Limerick VEC, Citizens Information Board, PAUL Partnership, New Communities Partnership, Ballyhoura Development Ltd., City Community and Voluntary Forum, West Limerick Resources and the Limerick Latvian Activity Centre.

Councillor David Naughton, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council said: “The publication of this Action Plan represents an important milestone in the lives of immigrants and ethnic groups living in Limerick City and County. I am delighted and, indeed, proud that Limerick has taken the initiative in developing this strategy, which assists and enables individuals to take responsibility for their own integration and helps them build a life for themselves in Ireland.”

Councillor Naughton, who is also Chairperson of Limerick County Development Board, continued: “Ireland is home to thousands of migrants who carry with them the same ambitions and dreams that we once carried with us during our centuries of emigration.  The challenge for us as a society is not to just engage positively with this reality but to harness our collective ability to embrace this change. Ireland is in the midst of an economic recession in which many people, Irish and immigrant, are losing their jobs.  Members of the local community in Limerick City and County must unite in these harsh times and continue to support one another for the sake of a fully functioning society and an eventual return to positive economic growth.”

Today’s launch event also featured a panel discussion entitled “Integration and the Recession”.  Chaired by RTE’s Mid West correspondent Cathy Halloran, the discussion featured input from Justyna Cwojdzinski (JC English Language Institute), Pat O’Sullivan (Limerick Businessman), William Fabian (President of Limerick Filipino Community) and Michael MacNamara (Director of HSI Limerick Business School).  Musical entertainment was provided on the day by the locally based Elikya Gospel Choir

According to Councillor Kevin Kiely, Mayor of Limerick, the Integration Plan would not have been completed without the commitment and dedication of all the people who served on the Integration Working Group over the last three years.

He continued: I am very impressed that this plan has identified specific actions for delivery over the lifetime of the plan and has identified the agencies responsible for the delivery of these actions. This should ensure that the plan is effective in impacting positively on the lives of migrants in the City and County, and is in line with the City Council’s own core value of Equality and Social Inclusion.”

“In the current economic climate it is essential that we enable all our citizens to play an active part in this country’s recovery, as outlined in the themes covered under this plan. The improvement of Education and Training Services, eliminating discrimination, providing for the health and welfare of migrants is the only option to enhance their employment prospects and it is only through employment that one can be fully integrated into the community”, concluded Mayor Kiely.

For further information on “Integrating Limerick: Limerick City and County Integration Plan 2010-12” telephone 061-480922 or visit www.limerickcdb.ie.

JRS 2010 Intercultural & Interfaith Calendar

The JRS Ireland Intercultural and Interfaith Calendar 2010 is available now.


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Poachers Turned Gamekeepers

Students take a turn at teaching.


On his recent visit to Belvedere College SJ, Fr. John Dardis dropped in to see some of the Fifth Year students teaching English to adults, and one can only hope that he was impressed with what he saw! The programme started some years ago with a number of Fourth Years completing a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and then assisting foreign students of their own age in O’Connell’s School with their English.  This continues to this day very successfully, and O’Connell’s School really appreciates the assistance given to their students. It gives the Belvedere students a very good idea of the difficulties facing these pupils, some of whom arrive in Ireland without family. Last year the Belvedere students were awarded the Edmund Rice Award for the work they have done in O’Connell’s over the years. It was a privilege and a great honour to receive this award.

The programme was continued into Poetry Religious Education but this time targeting adult asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants. About a year after the start of this, the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) linked in with us and Sr. Eleanor O’Brien of the JRS has been of immense assistance in running the programme, accessing some of the asylum seekers from the Georgian Court hostel in Gardiner Street, and keeping the Belvedere students abreast of all the latest laws and statistics vis a vis asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. The students have learned a great deal from her about the position of these people in Ireland and she has also guided them in the teaching of English. Derek Cassidy SJ also facilitates a programme of reflection for the Poetry students which enables them to link what they do to the gospel values of living out their faith through their actions.

The Belvedere students placed advertisements in local shops and this has also brought in quite a number of people wishing to learn English.  Word is out in the area about the classes with more and more adults coming to the school on a weekly basis for one-to-one lessons in English.

This year Jack Reynor, a Sixth Year student who taught English to the adults last year, asked if the programme could continue into Sixth Year. He rounded up enough volunteers from the year to be able to take a full class of adults every Tuesday morning.

The programme appears to be becoming more and more successful.  Part of its success is due to the fact that the adults are now familiar with the surroundings of the school.  The same adults come on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and the JRS runs classes on a Tuesday evening in Belvedere for them.  The biggest part of its success though is, without doubt, the Belvedere students themselves.  They are fantastic with the adults and there is a great buzz of conversation and learning in the room during classes.  There is little doubt that the adults thoroughly enjoy coming into Belvedere on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and this is obvious from the interaction between each Belvedere student and their ‘student’.  Classes are punctuated with a break for tea or coffee with biscuits, organized by Olive O’Donnell, which creates a most welcoming ambiance and is looked forward to by all.  It has also allowed our students to see the Muslim religion in practice during Ramadan when their ‘student’ will not even accept a drink of water.

The rewards are great on both sides. For the Belvedere student there is the opportunity of meeting and getting to know the foreigners. There is also the satisfaction of helping them to learn English, making it easier for them to live in Ireland and possibly improving their chances of getting work here.  For the foreigner, the one-to-one lessons in English are a bonus as they learn at their own pace and at the appropriate level for their ability.  Occasionally there are adults who need to learn how to read and write.  For many living in hostels, it’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a change of venue, an opportunity to meet some Irish people as well as learning the language without any additional cost.  For the lonely, the hurt, and the displaced, it’s a welcoming place to come to where they feel safe and enjoy the company of the Belvedere students and the other foreigners.

The TEFL course gives the students the confidence and tools to teach English to foreigners as well as giving them a valuable certificate for future years, should they wish to travel and earn money at the same time.  None of this would be possible without the assistance of the Parents’ Committee which has funded the TEFL course for the past number of years, spawning the growth from the Fourth Year programme to the Fifth and Sixth Year programmes and making a difference in a considerable number of lives.

By Polly Dolan 

JRS Ireland AGM

The Annual General Meeting of the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe took place in Clongowes College in County Kildare, Ireland, from 29 October - 1November 2009.


Over 60 participants from 18 countries participated. The topic of the meeting was “Pathways to Integration: A challenge in Principle, in Practice and in Policy”. There were a number of workshops facilitated by Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland and their aim was to explore how integration relates to JRS mission, what is happening on the ground in terms of integration and services of JRS National Offices and how JRS can influence integration policy and approaches at local, national and regional level. A social night in Dublin was also enjoyed by the attendees. The next AGM will be held in Malta. For JRS Ireland’s account of the event read below.

JRS EUROPE AGM IN CLONGOWES

Over 60 participants from twelve JRS National Offices and two Spanish Jesuit Migration Organisations participated in the JRS Europe AGM, which was held in Clongowes Wood College from October 29th to November 1st 2009. The event was opened by the Acting Provincial, Fr. Noel Barber SJ, and the Mission Officer Director (and former JRS Regional Director for East Africa) Fr. John Guiney SJ.

The theme of the AGM was integration. A day and a half workshop entitled ‘Pathways to Integration: A Challenge in Principle, in Practice and in Policy’ was facilitated by Mr. Eugene Quinn, JRS Ireland, National Director and by Mr. Fidele Mutwarasibo, Senior Research and Policy Officer, Immigrant Council of Ireland. The workshop was opened by the Minister for Integration, Mr. John Curran TD.

In addition there were a series of meetings monitoring progress on JRS Europe common projects which include: a research project into the conditions in Detention in Europe for Vulnerable Asylum Seekers (DEVAS); a project establishing an Advocacy Network for Destitute migrants in Europe (ANDES); and the Steering Committee for an Externalisation of Asylum project.

Fr. Michael Shiel SJ provided a very entertaining tour of the Castle and history of Clongowes most famous students. This was followed by a very enjoyable social evening for the AGM participants as the guests of Community. The timetable also allowed for a free afternoon to explore Dublin, which involved for many a novel experience of travelling on a Double Decker bus!

In the three days prior to the AGM there was a Regional Coordinators Meeting for JRS Europe. This was attended by 28 persons including all the JRS National Directors. An operational plan for the next 18 months agreeing common projects in the areas of detention, destitution and externalization of asylum was agreed.

Eugene Quinn said ‘I would like to express my appreciation for the tremendous effort and dedication of the JRS Ireland staff and volunteers in ensuring the event was such a tremendous success. I would also like to pay tribute to the excellence of the Clongowes staff and facilities and wish to acknowledge in particular the assistance of Mr. Ray Kenny, Mr. Pat Keenan and Ms. Anne Cooke.”

Fr General Launches JRS Annual Report

“There are no such things as migrants or refugees”, said Fr General Adolfo Nicolas, “only people. And the lines and borders on maps are only lines, not reality”


He was speaking at the launch in Limerick of  the Jesuit Refugee Service’s annual report on Friday Sept 11th.  He praised the staff of the JRS  for their continuing dedication to accompanying and serving those who had come to Ireland from far-flung countries in search of refuge and asylum. He also voiced his concern at the growing trend in many European countries to close off their borders and lock their doors to strangers seeking help.

Fr Nicolas believes that the rise in hostility toward foreigners and the stirring up of xenophobia is  easy to accomplish but it must be tackled by people in host countries engaging in an act of memory. Many of those people were once migrants  themsleves, depending on the kindness of others in countries not their own , he says. Others would once have employed migrants themselves to do the dangerous, dirty work they would not do themselves. Remembering this reality is the key to change.

Fr Nicholas concerns over the long-term institutional effects of the asylum process in this country, were reported in the Irish Times:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0912/1224254384545.html

 

End of the Summer

The JRS Ireland Summer Programme came to a close on Thursday 20th August with a trip to Newgrange Farm. 


The programme, which ran for eight weeks over July and August was a great success this year.  110 children and adults from Clondalkin Towers and Hatch Hall and 20 volunteers participated in the swimming, arts and crafts, family fun day, bowling, cinema, kayaking and trips to Balbriggan Beach and Newgrange Farm.  JRS Ireland would like to extend its thanks to the many volunteers, without whose help and dedication the programme would not have been possible.  We would also like to thank Dublin City Council, CYC, CDYSB, Impact, Fingal County Council and the Katherine Howard Foundation for their support.  We look forward to an even bigger and more eventful programme next summer.

JRS Receives Funding for African Schools

The Jesuit Refugee Service is to receive nearly €250,000 from the Irish Ministry for Overseas Development, it was announced recently.



The Minister of State, Peter Power, recently made the funding available for the building of schools for children displaced by conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). 

Last year the CAR was placed on the UN Peacebuilding Commission agenda, which aims to help countries emerging from conflict to avoid falling back into war or chaos. This is indicative of the very unstable nature of the country’s politics, especially due to rebel resistance to the government and a heavy-handed response from the military. The JRS is one of the few organisations working in the areas controlled by the rebels. Read the full press release below.

Minister Announces Funding for JRS

In early August the Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power announced funding of almost €250,000 for the Jesuit Refugee Service to build schools for children displaced by conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Minister of State Power said the funding from Irish Aid, the Government’s programme for overseas development, will make a tangible difference to the lives of thousands of children:

“The funding I announced for the Jesuit Refugee Service will allow 2,000 children, whose lives have been devastated by war and instability, to access education. The war in the Central African Republic has had a serious impact on the education sector with fewer than one-in-three children in the country currently completing primary school, of whom an even smaller proportion are girls.

Most of the children living in the north of the country are displaced and the education system in these areas has essentially collapsed. Irish Aid support will allow the Jesuit Refugee Service to open schools in areas where there are no organisations working or where the education services are not sufficient to cater for the number of internally displaced children.

As we know from our experience in Ireland, education is key to social and economic progress. The long-term impact of a primary education on the lives of these 2,000 boys and girls cannot be underestimated,” he said.

Peter Balleis, International Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service said:

“I have spent the last week in the Central African Republic and I visited the JRS team who work in both areas under the control of the rebels. Some insecurity remains and, for this reason, very few organisations work in these areas.

But the JRS presence, the construction of schools and other activities have created a growing confidence and more people are returning to the villages from the forests. The needs are immense in CAR, but with the help of Irish Aid funding to construct and rehabilitate schools, JRS can assist the development of an integrated programme of educational services in CAR, including teacher training.”

JRS Summer Programme

The JRS Summer Programme kicked off on Wednesday 1st July in Clondalkin Towers.


The Programme is open to families and activities are taking place in Dublin 1 and Clondalkin Towers. From swimming to bowling to cinema trip to art classes and day trips, there is organised fun for everyone from age 4 to at 16. Families are welcome to join us for any activity and all activities are free. For more information please see the JRS Events Calendar or contact us: 01 814 8644 or Liz O'Rourke at 086 1741414

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