The Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS UK) has a mission to accompany, serve as companions, and advocate for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced individuals. We accompany those held indefinitely in immigration detention, and those who have been made destitute by the asylum system. Through accompaniment we walk alongside those we serve in the belief that encounter, mutual relationship and community are fundamental to human flourishing.
The Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic charity, present in around 50 countries worldwide, with a mission to accompany, serve as companions and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced individuals worldwide. The JRS mission is built on our faith in God who is present in human history, in its most tragic moments. We are inspired by this faith and by core values that inform all the work we do.
JRS UK works with two main groups of people: those currently detained indefinitely in the two Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) near Heathrow airport, and asylum seekers and refugees who find themselves forced into destitution by the process of seeking asylum in the UK.
Immigration detention can be a very confusing and desolate environment especially when individuals do not know how long they will be detained. In order to break this loneliness, JRS UK organises visitors to spend time with some of those in detention, offering the opportunity to share their stories, their worries and concerns, and their dreams. JRS UK also visits the Heathrow IRCs every Thursday to be present at the Welfare Office where those who are detained can stop by to seek help with various problems. JRS UK aims to help answer questions, offer accompaniment and liaise with other organisations to ensure that all individuals can reach the assistance they require. We also accompany those in detention through our prayer resource, ‘Praying with Detainees’, where, each month, we call to mind the names of those in detention who would like to be remembered in our prayers.
Due to a number of factors, many refugees in the UK cannot claim benefits or work. This leaves many individuals and families destitute, often for extended periods of time. Prolonged destitution can lead to significant physical hardship, isolation and anxiety. Through our weekly Day Centre, we are able to provide a warm and welcoming environment for destitute refugees that acts as a counterculture to much of the hostility they face elsewhere. Supported by a dedicated team of volunteers, our Day Centre offers practical support such as weekly travel grants, monthly toiletry packs, food parcels, clothing donations and a hot meal. Importantly the JRS UK Day Centre is a safe place for refugees to relax with friends and where there is always a listening ear. Alongside our Day Centre, we offer and range of activities and facilitated groups, such as a gospel choir, drama workshops and prayer groups. These activities help unearth and develop skills, encourage mutual sharing, help build relationships and are a source of resilience.
One of the biggest challenges facing refugees is being able to find safe and secure accommodation. Unable to rent, many depend on family and friends to put them up each night and many find themselves spending the night on night buses or sleeping on the street. Through our At Home hosting scheme, JRS UK organises short-term accommodation placements for refugees, providing a small amount of stability at an otherwise uncertain time. A roof over one’s head and the offer of friendship through being hosted can be transformative.