Communities of Hospitality
The project in brief
Jesuit Refugee Service Europe (JRS)
European level project in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom
January 2016 - December 2018
However, it is ongoing at smaller scale and at national level.
JRS in Europe strives to provide hospitality to refugees whether it be through day centres, cultural centres, family hosting schemes or simply coffee mornings. With global conflict and the number of people reaching Europe in search of protection, Communities of Hospitality seeks to reduce xenophobia and discrimination by strengthening and promoting a culture of welcome, inclusion and understanding.
1. Set up new communities of hospitality (CoH) in 4 European countries – Belgium, Italy, Malta and Romania – where citizens will have the opportunity to develop close friendly relations with forced migrants through different social activities.
2. Use the national CoH experiences in Germany, Poland and the UK to promote the creation of new CoH and to establish a network where individuals and communities share their experiences, identify best practices and advocate for the rights of forced migrants and in favour of the values of hospitality and solidarity.
3. Organise national hospitality campaigns in Spain, Portugal and France to raise awareness and to promote hospitality as an explicit rejection of those discourses in the mainstream that fuel hostility and the scapegoating of forced migrants.
France: JRS Welcome Project, the refugee experience
The project was funded by a private foundation across 10 countries in Europe. All of the projects developed at national level had differing focuses depending on contexts and existing work of the partners.
- JRS United Kingdom
- JRS France
- JRS Belgium
- JRS Malta
- JRS Romania
- JRS Poland (W akcji)
- JRS Italy (Centro Astalli)
- JRS Germany
- JRS Portugal
- SJM Spain (Hospitalidad)
Challenges and how they were overcome
The sustainability of the project on mid and long term was a relevant challenge. While the aim were to continue the work of the local networks, there was difficulty to re-brand campaigning aspects of the project given an increasingly hostile public opinion that hardens its discourse on migration as well as a lack of funding to secure the European-wide nature of the project beyond local level.
While the common European project ended at the end of 2018, some project partners have continued the work at national level.
France: Jesuit Refugee Service Welcome Project, the host family experience
Results of the Good Practice
- In France, families and religious communities host an asylum seeker over a period of six weeks. At the end of 2017, almost 900 asylum seekers had been served.
- In the UK, 16 hosting families and religious communities hosted 20-25 people through the project who would otherwise have been homeless.
- In Belgium, 30 refugees were hosted by local families that participated in the program and there were about 90 volunteers that helped the project in different ways.
- In Malta, three religious congregations and two local families offered accommodation to refugee families and 51 volunteers participated.
- In Romania, 33 volunteers – mostly women and students assisted the project - 183 people refugees attended the day centre and 116 were accommodated by the night shelter.
- In Poland, 93 refugees participated in the activities of the project with 78 volunteers.
- In Italy, 160 refugees were hosted and accommodated by 30 religious communities.
- In Germany, the project offered technical trainings to volunteers working with refugees and awareness raising programmes with schools.
- In Portugal, a large scale campaign was launched to raise awareness about offering hospitality to refugees.
- In Spain, a large scale campaign was launched to raise awareness on hospitality as well as several projects to compliment it.
JRS Italy project
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The projects were providing necessary reception services and support to refugees that governments were not or were inadequately providing. This is not necessarily a good practice, but at the time it was a real need.
Through public awareness raising campaigns, the project called for hospitality and welcome towards refugees at the height of the so-called European refugee crisis, when many narratives of being overwhelmed were spreading and when boarders were starting to close and policies becoming more hostile. This resulted in many local people within host countries being motivated to volunteer for the project and feel useful and that they were contributing to solutions.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The project increased refugees social networks through introducing them to local people which enhanced their integration process and connected them with other needed services to start their lives in their new societies. It promoted positive narratives, with an end goal of empowering people to be self-sufficient in their new homes.
The project ended in 2018. There is ongoing interest to continue the project if the appropriate funding can be found for it.
JRS Belgium Up Together project
Claudia Bonamini, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe