#SumoMiCamino Hospitality for Refugees

On the occasion of the World Day of Refugees, which will be commemorated on 20 June, the Hospitality campaign of the Social Sector organisations of the Society of Jesus in Spain (Red Mimbre, Jesuit Migrant Service, Alboan and Entreculturas) is once again launching the Pathways of Hospitality initiative.

Under the slogan #SumoMiCamino, we invite citizens to put themselves in the shoes of refugees and displaced persons, and we call for a Europe of Hospitality and the defence of Human Rights. A Europe whose borders (the Canaries, the Alps, the Southern Border…) hurt us and challenge us, and where, in recent months, despite the context of the health crisis we are experiencing, thousands of people and families around the world continue to be forced to set out on the road.

For a Europe of Hospitality and Human Rights

The causes that provoke the flight of forcibly displaced people, the obstacles they encounter in transit and the conditions they face in the destination country place refugees and migrants in situations of lack of protection, discrimination and constant violation of their rights.

The Social Sector of the Society of Jesus in Spain is not satisfied with this reality. That is why we are united in this Pact for Hospitality in which we continue to call for a comprehensive response that defends the right to safe migration in all its phases, and that builds new discourses, values and ways of coexistence that allow us to move towards the construction of a human family and a new society. And we also continue to work with them, both in Spain and in other countries:

From Entreculturas and Alboan, we accompany refugees and displaced people in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We ensure that they have access to basic services, with a special focus on promoting the empowerment of women through productive initiatives, and on ensuring that refugee children receive quality education.

From the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM), through diverse experiences of hospitality (family networks, host communities, community sponsorship…), we seek stable solutions for the reception and integration of more than 320 refugees and migrants living in our country.

From Red Mimbre, we accompany the socio-educational and labour insertion processes of children, adolescents and their families in 13 neighbourhoods in 6 Spanish cities. Supporting their personal and vital growth from the social, cultural and economic contexts of clear disadvantage and vulnerability where they live, thus making explicit their rights, the exercise of justice and social solidarity. Either in residential shelters or in the day-to-day life of their neighbourhoods.

#SumoMiCamino from June 1st to 20th

This year’s Pathways of Hospitality will take place, while maintaining all the necessary security measures, from June 1st to 20th. We encourage citizens to:

– Add your path in the format of your choice (through urban walking, hiking, etc.).

– Make a reading of our Pact for Hospitality and our political demands at the end of their walk, and join them through our petition in Visibles.

– Spread the initiative through social networks with the hashtag #SumoMiCamino.

– And to collaborate with our Hospitality network, to help us to continue offering accompaniment and hosting to refugees and migrants, both in their countries of origin and in their transit and arrival in Spain, and to continue to raise awareness and influence in order to achieve fair policies.

First meeting of volunteers of the Immigration Detention Centers Visits Programme

On 12 May, for the first time, a meeting was held for all the volunteers who are part of the visiting teams to the CIEs (Immigration Detention Centers) in Barcelona, Valencia, Algeciras and Madrid. It was a virtual meeting where the volunteers themselves had the opportunity to get to know each other better and exchange experiences of a common work, such as “accompanying, serving and defending” the people who are interned in the CIE.

Volunteers – old and new – have put into words the feelings aroused by knowing and accompanying those who are deprived of their freedom behind bars “dreamcatchers”, as they defined the CIE. During the meeting, Cristina Manzanedo and Ilham Ennmer shared their testimonies with us, bringing us closer to life stories with which a bond is created that goes beyond the visits, and people to whom we try to give back the dignity they believe they have lost by being interned in these centres.

Cristina told her story following up the case of Samba Martine, a Congolese woman who died in the CIE of Madrid ten years ago due to an accumulation of medical negligence, and Ilham, on her part, shared her experience as a translator in the CIE of Algeciras, a city which, she said, she could not see in the same way since she started volunteering; her perception of the place changed even in the daily things, such as walking through its streets or bathing on the beach.

The meeting highlighted the importance of networking and the necessary convergence between legal work and citizen mobilisation to achieve a fairer world free of these centres for the detention of foreigners.

The general feeling of gratitude for being able to share stories and recharge each other’s batteries was mixed with those shared feelings that came to light when talking about such hard work: “Powerlessness, but also hope for the commitment of so many little people”. In the space there was also room for suggestions and no one better than those people who cross the doors of the CIE to do so.

WE THANK all the people who give their time to accompany those who are on the other side of the walls of a CIE, being an example of service and testimony of hope to continue “rowing all towards the same goal, leaving aside borders”.

We publish our report “Focusing our gaze: towards a holistic model of hospitality that puts people at the centre”

With the arrival of Covid-19, EU Member States began to take measures to limit contagion: confinement, social distance, restrictions on national and international mobility… These measures had direct consequences on applicants for international protection, as JRS Europe analyses in its report From Bad to Worse: Covid-19 Deepens the Gaps in Refugee Reception Systems, a publication that studies the impact of Covid-19 on reception conditions for refugees.

In the case of Spain, we recognise elements in common with those presented at the European level, although we identify particularities related to the specific policies adopted in Spain to mitigate the health crisis, as well as coinciding with the process of transformation of our reception system. In this context, we asked ourselves: What contributions can SJM make to a new model of reception, and what lessons learned could be added to the model?

This reflection gave rise to our report “Focusing our Gaze”, where we offer the lessons learned from the European study and SJM’s vision of the reception system in Spain: where it should be heading and our vision of how it is responding to people in need of protection. Finally, we will present our proposal for a community model, through sponsorship and the network of hospitality communities.

Download the full report here

SJM Valencia Migrant Women, Rozalén and “Aves Enjauladas”

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the release of the song “Aves Enjauladas”, singer-songwriter and activist Rozalén and Beatriz Romero, her sign language interpreter, travelled to Valencia to visit the families and groups of migrant women at risk of social exclusion of the Jesuit Migrant Service-Valencia, supported by Entreculturas.

In April 2020, in the midst of confinement, Rozalén gave us hope in the form of a song. Her solidarity song “Aves enjauladas” (Caged birds) has been, throughout this year, a symbol of solidarity and optimism that highlights the lessons learned in the time of Covid “to return with more strength”.

“I really wanted to come and meet you. When the song came out, many people were having a really bad time and I thought it wasn’t fair for me to keep it, so I spoke to Entreculturas and told them that I would like to connect it with what is happening close to us, also here in Spain. That’s when they told me about this Jesuit Migrant Service project. Thank you to all of you who make this possible, it has been very exciting and I never stop learning from the struggle of so many incredible women like you”, explained Rozalén during her meeting with the women.

One of the most moving moments of the meeting took place when the women performed a short play based on their own life stories: Mujeres Migradas (Migrated Women). A script written by the women themselves that reflects the struggle and strength of so many migrant women (you can download the full script here).

The funds raised from the more than 5 million plays of the song have gone to support the Jesuit Migrant Service’s network of shelters for families, women and children in vulnerable situations, specifically the network of four shelters located in Valencia that form part of the Hospitality project. “Aves Enjauladas serves and has served as a symbol, and the families have understood this. This song was reflected in help and joy for many families,” shared Angélica Zuluaga, a psychologist at SJM Valencia.

Mustafa Mohamed, Director of SJM Valencia, said that “Aves enjauladas has been a breath of fresh air for the organisation. We are committed to the integration of migrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in society, and we work along several lines, such as programmes aimed at supporting migrant women, who are a particularly vulnerable group. Many have been left practically homeless or have very little support from the administration, which is why it has been a particularly hard year”.

Currently, SJM Valencia’s shelters have a total of 12 families, 13 of whom are women and 15 children and adolescents, mainly migrants, whose socio-economic status has been severely affected by the pandemic. “One of the things I feel most identified with in the song, perhaps because of the process I came from, is when she says: “I darned my little cloths” of courage, of valuing… It wasn’t easy for me, I never thought I would have to migrate, to see myself forced to do it. This group has really helped me to darn my little cloth”, says Tanya Picón, from the group “Mujeres Reconstruyendo Historias”. Through music, families and women like Tanya have access to food, help with their children’s education, medicines and clothes. For these families, the shelter flats have become their most faithful home and support in these times of great uncertainty.

With the funds raised, the accompaniment of the families has been reinforced so that they can continue with their process in the midst of this uncertain context caused by the pandemic. Spaces of mutual support have been created for women where they can share experiences, claim their rights and make visible the reality they live as migrant women in search of a better future. In addition, it is hoped that with the new normality, the integrative ecology garden project, an initiative that cares for, accompanies and integrates women both with themselves and with their environment, will be taken up again.

“Caged Birds” is already a hymn of hope that speaks of what we live. It metaphorically describes the respect and awareness of everyone to do great things with very small details and has generated a great network of solidarity. As Rozalén sang in the flats, “it’s time that what belongs to others and what belongs to oneself matter equally” and when all this is over, let us always remember the lessons learned during the confinement to collectively build a better world.

We publish the LUMEN IV Report ‘Expulsion as a weapon against illegal residence’

Continuing with the series of LUMEN studies, which aim to provide information on current migration issues, the fourth report ‘Expulsion as a weapon against illegal immigration‘ has been published. This fourth issue highlights an important part of the reality of migration: illegal residence.

People who enter and reside in a country irregularly face increasing vulnerability, even more so now with the global pandemic. It is estimated that in Spain there are 500,000 people living in this situation.

In this release we will address what the Spanish Immigration Law establishes regarding irregular status in terms of fines and infringement or expulsion, with emphasis on the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in 2015 and 2020 in order to finally raise some reflections: should irregular residence be considered a serious infringement? Should it be punished with expulsion? And even with a fine? Finally, with the help of the answers to these questions, we will establish a clear position on this situation.


Arrupe Hospitality Community: welcome and solidarity

The #Seguimos campaign promoted by the Society of Jesus has supported several hospitality projects of the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM), including the Arrupe Community of Hospitality. This community is the result of Migra Studium joining forces with the Society of Jesus and the Casal Loiola to respond to the pandemic emergency and strengthen the Hospitality Families Network in Catalonia.

During the first phase of the pandemic, the project responded to the urgent housing needs of many migrants. In a world of closed doors, where hundreds of people lose their lives on their migratory journey, the Arrupe Community welcomes and offers a roof and a home to asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.

The incorporations to this community have been done progressively and so far the project has made possible the reception of 16 people, with an average of 5 people welcomed simultaneously to ensure a good accompaniment and a family atmosphere. All of them are very active people, and having a home makes it possible for them to continue studying and looking for work.

From the beginning, the volunteers have been at the heart of the project, offering Spanish and Catalan classes, computer classes, leisure activities, help in the vegetable garden, and above all their presence at midday and in the evenings. In the same way, the collaboration of many families who buy food and other basic products on a weekly basis has been fundamental.

Testimony of Anna-bel, involved in the Arrupe Community

“Today the joy has been enormous! Karim came to visit us at the Casal Arrupe. When we saw him, respecting the distances marked by the pandemic, we all greeted him warmly and told him how happy we were that he had come back to visit us. Her heartfelt response was clear and sincere, moving for all of us: “It’s my home!

Who wouldn’t call home that space where he has lived for a while and helped to dress and fill with life, where he has cooked, cleaned, lived with other people, felt welcomed and cared for? It’s my home! As it is now his home, the home of the foster family where he has been lucky enough to go to be able to move on. My home… the importance of feeling expected, accompanied, safe and protected; the need to feel loved because you are loved, simply because you are a person and a person has absolute value; and only another person can help you to heal your wounds and overcome your fears and sadness by listening, loving and tenderness”.

Testimony of Kamal, 20 years old, Morocco

“When I was 17 years old, I decided to cross by boat to Spain in search of a better future in a country where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak their language. When I arrived in Barcelona everything was very difficult, first I spent a month and a half on the street sleeping in a park. There I met a man who took me to a police station so that I could enter a centre for minors. As I was only 5 days away from turning 18, I was no longer a minor for the police. They told me that I had to go back to the street, I was blocked.

After some more time on the street, I spent 5 months in shelters. The Hospitality Network project was explained to me. My best stage in Spain began. I spent a year and a half with three different families. It has been a brutal experience, I have learnt a lot of things. I have been able to start studying an intermediate degree, the teachers are very happy with me and I am very happy with them”.

Community Sponsorship as a form of Hospitality

Moving towards a culture of welcome and encounter, as Pope Francis urges us on so many occasions, is essential in order to “seek points of contact, to build bridges, to plan something that includes everyone […]. And the subject of this culture is the people” (Fratelli Tutti, 216).

Community Sponsorship as a model of reception puts the spotlight on civil society and its social institutions, as key actors in accompanying refugees arriving in our country.

Andriuska Surga is one of the professionals from the Padre Lasa Centre – part of the network of Jesuit Migrant Service entities in Spain – who has accompanied the reception process of two Syrian families who arrived in Tudela (Navarra) on 6 April under this Community Sponsorship model. She tells us what the experience has been like and how it is going.

What is Community Sponsorship?

Community sponsorship is a model in which the community itself is the one that welcomes and integrally accompanies the newly-arrived families. It is nothing more than opening your arms and heart to people and guiding them, advising them, caring for them and respecting them as equals; being the support network for people who are unfamiliar with the environment.

It is about people themselves becoming aware of the problems, recognising the need for change, and searching together for solutions, with a dynamic attitude that leads to collaborative initiatives.

Why would you want to get involved in a Community Sponsorship programme at the Padre Lasa Centre?

Since its origins, the Padre Lasa Centre aims to accompany, serve and defend migrants and people at risk of exclusion, through psychosocial interventions respecting the processes of each person and focusing on the community and the involvement of the person themselves in the process.

The experiences of community sponsorship are an example of responsibility and collective and shared effort. We had no doubt that Tudela, given the warmth of the people who make up the town, the diversity that characterises it and the variety of resources, was an ideal place to carry out this pioneering project in Spain.

What was the process like? The previous preparation, training of the teams and volunteers involved in the reception, organisation of civil society, accommodation of housing, other details?

If we had to sum up the pre-arrival phase in three words, we would say excitement, affection and gratitude (with all the work that this entails).

We have enjoyed and learned a lot during the process and we feel very fortunate for the network that moves this project. Public and private entities, international, state, regional, local, from the SJM network, family businesses, shops, individuals… In short… A large family that moves around this project “SOMOS”.

How was the reception by the families?

Undoubtedly the most emotional moment of this process, to date, has been the landing of the flight from Istanbul (on 6 April). We knew that the months of preparation, the work done and the affection of all the people who are part of this project “SOMOS”, was a guarantee. But in our minds there were only feelings of admiration for these brave families who entrusted their lives to something unknown, in search of a better future; and at the same time of nerves to be able to transmit our warmest welcome and to guarantee them that they are not alone in this new journey.

The presentation of the local sponsoring groups (this is how the groups of volunteers are called) was indescribable. The looks spoke for themselves: you could read WELCOME HOME on the one hand and THANK YOU on the other. We could go on for much longer and we have only been here for 4 days…

A look at the challenges ahead

We have many challenges ahead of us (managing expectations, paperwork, bureaucracy, language learning, schooling…) but the biggest of them, without a doubt, is not to fail you.

We will continue to work in a coordinated way with all the parties involved with love.

Pandemic restricts fundamental rights in the Immigration Detention Centres

Yesterday afternoon a round table discussion was organised by the Jesuit Migrant Service on the report “COVID-19 and immigration detention: Lessons (not) learned” by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

The round table was attended by Iván Lendrino Tejerina (SJM CIE [Immigration Detention Centres] programme coordinator), Josep Buades Fuster SJ (SJM Southern Border programme coordinator and director of the Claver-SJM Association), Arcadio Diaz Tejera (Magistrate and Stay Control Judge of the CIE of Las Palmas), Elena Arce Jiménez (Head Technician of the Migration and Equal Treatment Area in the Ombudsman’s Office) and Paloma Favieres Ruiz (Coordinator of the legal services of CEAR).

As Arcadio Díaz Tejera pointed out, “The pandemic has generated a restrictive drift in terms of fundamental rights”. In a year in which social and health issues have been and continue to be of particular concern and strategic importance, the structural deficiencies in this area of CIEs have called into question their need to exist. “It is necessary to prevent people from entering the CIE: the guarantees in the centre are minimal” assured Paloma Favieres, to which Elena Arce added: “with the confinement and the State of Alarm, the function of the CIEs began to make no sense”.

Among the issues that these speakers brought to the table were: the deficient role of legal and social care within the CIEs and, especially, a worsening of social and health conditions. Díaz Tejera gave an example of the former with this testimony: “On 25 September, 42 young people entered the CIE (29 Mali, 9 from Senegal, 2 from Gambia and 1 from Mauritania). When I asked all of them where they came from and if they knew about international protection, they all said no. Migrants should know their rights to international protection. Migrants should know their rights to protection, not only by asking, but also by being offered it. The children themselves do not see themselves as subjects of rights, they only ask for something to eat”.

In this area, Paloma Favieres insisted that “improving legal aid and translation in legal assistance are two fundamental aspects, in addition to the desire, the love of the profession and believing in what you do.

Socio-health aspects

At yesterday’s event, it became clear that the social and health care currently provided in CIEs is very deficient. For Elena Arce: “The news of this year of pandemic regarding the CIEs is far from being that for months there have been no people detained, the news is Samba Martine. A civil society that 11 years later has managed to ensure that the mother and daughter of this person who died in the detention centre in Madrid are compensated and that there is a resolution to assume patrimonial responsibility on the part of the administration. In the midst of a pandemic, the time is even more propitious to reflect on this. It is important to see and analyse this resolution to see what kind of health care is provided in the CIEs”.

The COVID-19 has shown that the only alternative for people coming from the emptied CIEs has been the Humanitarian Aid programmes,” said Paloma Favieres, “differentiating between emergency places and stable places, and not being able to convert emergency places into structural ones”. 

Thus, it became evident that during the months of emptying “nobody missed the CIEs”, according to Iván Lendrino, coordinator of the SJM CIE Programme, with the Hospitality of civil society being the most proportionate and appropriate reaction to forced migration.

See the report at this link.

Refugee families welcomed in Valencia thanks to #Seguimos

One of the projects implemented as part of the #Seguimos campaign has been emergency care and shelter for vulnerable families in Valencia. Since the arrival of the pandemic last year, the involvement of the SJM Valencia team with the most vulnerable people who lost their income and suffered the consequences of the crisis was very high thanks to the support of #Seguimos, covering basic needs. Among those people accompanied and cared for are some of the asylum seeker and refugee families who live in several of the residential resources that the entity has in Valencia and surrounding areas. These are some of their stories:

Erika’s story

“My name is Erika Posada, I am a Colombian from Cali, I am 28 years old, and I have two small children. The situation in Colombia was very violent, with many robberies and intimidation, we didn’t feel safe. Together with my mom, we decided to take a new direction towards Spain, something we had been thinking about for a long time, because here there is calm and tranquillity, something we did not have there. I also wanted a future of hope and peace for the children.

Education is very important. I would like to complete my studies, I am in the 4th year of ESO (Compulsory secondary education) and I would like to finish so that I can support my mother, my brother and my children, and live calmly and happily”.

Refugee families

Edward (wife and one child):

“They demanded an amount of money from us that we couldn’t pay, that’s why we decided to leave the country. It is a very difficult situation to handle, if you don’t do what you’re told, they pressure you and extort you, with phone calls, they chase you and threaten you”.

“The departure from Colombia was above all with our son in mind, to give him a better life, to take him away from a life in which you get used to the conflict. The idea is for him to get ahead, to support him in whatever he wants to do”.

“In Valencia I feel very safe, I feel satisfaction and freshness. I can go out to the street without fear and I don’t have the stress of being chased. It’s a very nice feeling and I’d like to grow in Spain and move on”.

Robinson and Yamilet (a son with Down’s syndrome):

Robinson: “My wife belonged to a political group and so she was threatened. We were afraid that they might do something to me, to her or to our son, so we decided to travel to Spain and ask for international protection.

“From the beginning we were hosted by the Jesuits, in the SJM flats in Valencia. They have helped us with the asylum process, psychologically, socially, culturally, educationally; and also financially. We are now living in one of their homes, waiting for the asylum process to progress.

Yamilet: “Hopefully the asylum process will go through and we will be able to live in a regular situation in Spain. To be able to settle down, for our son to have a good education and a better quality of life.

The #Seguimos campaign of the Society of Jesus in Spain continues to offer attention to the needs of the most vulnerable population suffering the effects of the crisis resulting from the covid-19 pandemic. In this link it is possible to collaborate to ensure that aid to those who need it most can be carried out.

At SJM we continue to accompany vulnerable families in Madrid, thanks to the #Seguimos campaign

From the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM), with the support of the #Seguimos campaign, we still want to be close to women with dependent children who are especially suffering from the crisis resulting from covid-19, by opening flats of autonomy. In Madrid, Pueblos Unidos accompanies several single-parent families with care to cover their basic needs, legal, social and employment advice in this difficult context.

Alicia lives with her four children in a flat in Madrid. Of Ecuadorian origin, after having gone through all the processes of regularisation, job search, schooling, she is now facing the impact of covid19 on her life. After more than a month confined for being positive for the virus, without even being able to see her children in the same house, she is grateful for the support offered and faces the immediate future with caution but optimism.

“My family was directly affected in terms of work because I had to stop working… My four children were suspended from school for a few days and although I have not lost my job for the moment, the worry is always there. I have been on sick leave for a month now and I continue to test positive, although the symptoms are easing. During the confinement we had a very bad time, they were very hard days, but thanks to the support of Pueblos we never lacked food or the basics”.

Thanks to the support of #Seguimos, the network of organisations belonging to SJM has set up a series of autonomy flats for around 60 women with dependent children in seven autonomous communities. This project aims not only to provide residential accommodation for these families, but also to promote psychosocial support in this context, create a stable social network that facilitates their inclusion and provide legal support to help regularise their situation. Alicia tells us how Pueblos Unidos has supported her family during these months:

“They are always keeping an eye on the evolution of my illness with the whole family through phone calls, being a support with whatever we need at home whether it is in paperwork, food, medicines, etc. Above all, they have given us words of encouragement and impulse at all times, always offering themselves for whatever is needed, they have even gone to pick up the food that they give us monthly because we were all confined to the house. I have not seen my children for more than a month and they are taking care of the house because I am locked in my room and my children are still small, except for the eldest who is 20 years old. Personally, I am very grateful to everyone”.

The #Seguimos campaign of the Society of Jesus has set up more than 30 projects to help the most vulnerable population since the pandemic began.