SJM 2021 Meeting: Seeds of Resistance

On November 10th, 11st and 12nd, the Jesuit Migrant Service held its Annual Meeting 2021 in Madrid, where about 70 people from the network’s entities participated with the motto “Seeds of Resistance”. The meeting took place at the Casa de Ejercicios de las Esclavas de Cristo Rey. 

We began the Assembly on Wednesday, November 10th, when the welcome and reception took place at 7:00 pm. After dinner, an evening was organized as a first contact and meeting point for the participants of the Meeting.

On Thursday morning we began with an Institutional Welcome, where María del Carmen De La Fuente, SJM coordinator, and Luis Arancibia, Delegate of the Social Sector, presented the main challenges and achievements of the network, alluding to the motto of resistance to continue accompanying on a daily basis. After this presentation, with the aim of framing our action and putting a face to the realities seen in the care and accompaniment of migrants in the last year, the dynamic “The faces we see” took place. Through the faces of people who are accompanied, testimonies were presented so that we could see more closely what stories are seen in several of the areas and dimensions of work, from the southern border and Detention Centres , to residential reception and social inclusion. 

Wednesday morning ended with an eye on where we are. A self-diagnosis to make visible where the capacities of the works and the connections of the network are placed. To this end, 5 working groups were created, each with a dimension: protection, reception, residential, inclusion and coexistence. They identified elements defining each dimension, present difficulties and challenges, and connections with the other dimensions. To end the dynamics, there was a sharing among all the participants. 

Finally, as part of the same dynamic, we looked at where we should be in order to change things, with the objective of identifying the needs, challenges and opportunities to accompany, serve and defend the people we are looking at. For this space, based on what was carried out during the morning, the participants were distributed in three spaces: Intervention and Accompaniment, Strengthening and Sustainability, and Raising Awareness and Advocacy. In each space we identified lines of force and common aces to pool all the dimensions and understand where we should be in order to respond the needs and challenges of migrants in the most effective and relevant way. 

Friday morning was entitled “Keys to Resilience”, where some of the network’s colleagues shared their own stories, testimonies of celebration in each of the steps we take together with those we accompany, serve and defend, as well as words of resilience and hope that were shared to support the team in the most difficult moments and continue to look forward without giving up. 

To end the Assembly and before the group photo and the farewell meal, there was an space for closing and recollection of the Assembly in an interreligious key, with an activity in which each person shared the main word that resonates in this Assembly in a little boat that sails in the sea of the day to day in the accompaniment of migrants. 

Thank you very much to all the entities and companions who came to Madrid to share, enjoy and learn in this annual meeting where we recharge strength and energy to continue with our mission and challenges.

SJM is the network of organizations of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus, organizations that work in the field of migration, which are: Pueblos Unidos Center and Padre Rubio of the Foundation San Juan del Castillo (Madrid), Migra Studium Foundation (Barcelona), Claver-SJM Association (Sevilla), Ellacuría Foundation (Bilbao), SJM Valencia, Red Íncola (Valladolid), Atalaya Intercultural (Burgos), Padre Lasa Center (Tudela), LoiolaEtxea Association (Donostia). The University Institute for Migration Studies (UP Comillas, Madrid) and the Diocesan Delegation of Migration of Tangier (site in Nador) are also part of the network.

What is Private Sponsorship for Refugees?

The Private Refugees Sponsorship project consists of an initiative of  Hospitality and accompaniment by civil society to refugees who arrive in our country in a vulnerable situation, so that there is a real and safe integration in the place of arrival. 

This accompaniment seeks to involve the local community to be part of the process, to see and become aware of the urgency and needs of refugees to achieve a dignified life and, together, to seek effective solutions. In this way, a “family” attitude is created between the new arrivals, civil society and public administrations. 

This initiative is promoted by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in close collaboration with, on the one hand, Central Governments (Ministry of Inclusion, Social Welfare and Migration) Regional Governments; and on the other hand, social organizations (Diocesan Caritas, the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit Migrant Service – SJM) and the local community. 

One of the great strengths about this project is that it is a durable solution of inclusion, in the line with the commitments adopted in the Global Compact on Refugees, where the community is directly involved with the work of reception and integration of refugees, accompanying and supporting the processes of integration and participation of refugees in the community, acting as the basic network of support and accompaniment and attending to all material, emotional and personal needs. In addition, the program complements the state refugee rewarming and refugee resettlement programs, and reinforces social inclusion and cohesion, involving the authorities and civil society. 

The integration proposal consists of hosting families in conditions of extreme vulnerability for a period of between 18 and 24 months. Thus, thanks to the Private Refugees Sponsorship and its volunteers, apart from integration into society and the opportunity of a new dignified life, the families welcomed are guaranteed the right to international protection. 

So far, three projects in three different regions have been promoted in partnership between UNHCR and the public administrations of the Government, both central and regional , since the end of 2019. In the Basque Country, it began with a pilot project to receive 29 people from Jordan identified by their teams as particularly vulnerable cases. There Syrian families are accompanied in different municipalities of the Basque Country through a collaboration agreement with Caritas Dioceses of Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria and the Ignacio Ellacuría Social Foundation, with the intention that it can be replicated on other Regions of Spain. 

In the Valencian Community, the Generalitat launched the Private Refugees Sponsorship project in October 2020, with the social support of SJM Valencia and the local communities of the Valencian capital and the municipality of Alaquás. 

In Tudela, the Padre Lasa Center and the San Francisco Javier Civil Foundation participate in the ‘Somos’ project together with the Government of Navarra, the General Directorate of Migration Policies and the City Council of Tudela. This initiative welcomes two Syrian families in the city. 

World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021. “Towards an ever greater ‘We’.

Newt Sunday, September 26th will be celebrated, as every year, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, with the aim of raising awareness in society about the constant challenges faced by migrants and refugees in the world, people in vulnerable situations who seek a dignified life in other places. 

It is important not to forget the catastrophic reach that the pandemic has had in every corner of the world, with a greater impact on the most vulnerable people in society, whose humans rights have fallen by the wayside. For this reason, the Pope Francis explains that “if we know their story, we can understand them” and, in this way, fight and watch over the rights of each persona, understanding that thousands of lives that are forced to leave everything behind must not be left unprotected. 

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) advocates for a social awareness that puts aside, quoting the Holy Father, “our fear of others, of the unknown, of the marginalized, of the strangers who knock at our door in search of protection, security and better future”, extolling our humanity, without differentiating a life by its social or human condition. 

People without equal opportunities, destined to flee their homes, entire families on the margins looking for a place to feel safe. It is an undeniable reality that must be fought, and that is why the WDMR supports and advocates for their rights so that we can build a universal “We” in a society that understands that all lives are valuable. 

For more information about WDMR, click here

Sineyi’s journey

Sineyi is a Venezuelan mother and asylum seeker. Now she is living in Valencia, where she has been building a new life for herself and her daughter, Sidney, thanks to the accompaniment of the Jesuit Migrant Service, after a journey full of difficulties. We were able to learn about her life story during the press conference for the Caminos de Hospitalidad #SumoMiCamino. A story as hard as that thousands of refugees and migrants who are forced to leave everything behind, led by war, conflict or persecution. 

During the presentation, Sineyi describes how she had to leave her country in 2018 in a very unstable political climate. She left her home with her daughter with just a few bags and without knowing the destination country they were heading to. She remembers how they left in the early hours of the morning, sneaking out and trying to reassure her daughter. “We are going to be fine”, she repeated on the bus to the Colombian border. 

One of her biggest fear was the risk of an encounter with armed groups.  “They charge what they call there ‘la vacuna’ to every person who move from one state to another”, she explains. “My fear was my daughter, because they take children, boys to train them and girls to prostitute them. On the bus I put all the bags I could on her and prayed that they wouldn’t see her. Four men got on the bus twice, saying: ‘whatever I like, I’m taking it’. They took the money from the driver. But we made it through and arrived at the Colombian border with the scare in our bones”. 

“I had to deliver the documents to the immigration office to be able to leave Colombia. [The immigration officer] told me that ‘the girl cannot leave because children are from the homeland’ and unfortunately, children cannot leave the country” she remembers. “They stamped my passport, the child’s was not. I started to cry. We left the two small suitcases on one side, which were the only things we were able to take out, because my priority was to get my daughter out. I touched the boy’s heart and he stamped her passport. I was three hours of anguish.

After their stay in Colombia, Sineyi and her daughter headed for Spain “hoping everything would turn out well with no more anguish and despair”. However, things were not easy either. Since their arrival in our country in May 2018, they had to face many times incomprehension and slow and complex processes when applying for political asylum. In addition, the pandemic made their economic situation even worse. “It was three years of anguish”, she explains with a broken voice. 

Everything changed when she contacted SJM Valencia and they entered the Hospitality program, which has a network of reception apartments for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. “In two months in the reception apartment they have made me feel that I am alive, that we are professionals and that we can develop ourselves,” she explains. “In January I wanted to die because I didn’t see a way out of my life, but today I really feel alive and I feel that I can go on, that I can move forward”. 

People like Sineyi and her daughter, who have had to leave everything behind and who are in a moment of maximum vulnerability, deserve all our support to be able to continue with their lives. From the network of Hospitality projects carried out by the social works of the Society of Jesus, we continue to accompany them, offering them shelter, opportunities and hop in these complex moments of crisis. 

Annual Report 2020

SJM (Jesuit Migrant Service) has, once again, published its Annual Report. 2020 has been an intense period, in which Covid pandemic has revealed the collective fragility, but at the same time has been a progress moment in SJM’s mission, that has invited us to seek more creative and hopeful common answers,. The entities part of SJM have accompanied 30,555 people during 2020, of which the 50% has been in first reception spaces, many of them motivated and adapted due Covid-19. 

Also, 817 people have been welcomed in Hospitality communities, more than 5.600 people have participated in training and employment programs, more than 2.500 in individualized itineraries of psychosocial and legal accompaniment, more than 1.880 women have been accompanied in the specific line, and about 7.200 people have participated in citizenship initiatives, coexistence in diversity and awareness.

In 2020, the common work developed by the entities that are part of the SJM network in 9 cities has been present and consolidated, as well as the work in alliance with other organizations of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus and other Jesuit social and academic institutions. The presence and participation in external networks, at the intra-ecclesial and European level, broadens the joint view of accompaniment to the migrant collective in a complex. Changing and interconnected world. 

During this time of global emergency, new programs have been developed, like the virtual assistance channel during the state of alarm or the launch of the Lumen series of brief reports. The hospitality reception has prioritized the accompaniment of the most vulnerable people. Work at the internal (CIE) and external (Southern Border) borders has brought new challenges beyond the day-to.day work. The other lines of work have found the spaces, adapting to a new reality to continue being close to the migrant population, trying to avoid falling into irregularity and accompanying processes of labor, training and social inclusion. 

SJM is a human team that works to accompany, serve and defend the integration process of migrant people and their rights, seeking to influence and reflect in order to generate a public debate on migration policies. It is formed, as stated in this Report, by 155 hired people in the member entities of the network, another 11 in the technical offices and 1.322 volunteers in various spaces and initiatives. To all of them and to all the people who make SJM’s mission possible, thank you very much for continuing to be close to us in such a complex year. 

#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.

#SumoMiCamino: solidarity walks for a society of hospitality with refugees

Under the slogan #SumoMiCamino, the organisations of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus in Spain (Red Mimbre, Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Alboan and Entreculturas) presented this morning the initiative Caminos de Hospitalidad (Paths of Hospitality).

An invitation to citizens to put themselves in the shoes of refugees and displaced people and to take solidarity walks to demand a Europe of Hospitality and the defence of Human Rights through a Pact for Hospitality.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day (to be celebrated on 20 June), the Jesuit Social Sector organisations in Spain (Red Mimbre, Jesuit Migrant Service, Alboan and Entreculturas) called this morning at a press conference for a Europe of Hospitality and the defence of Human Rights through the Caminos de Hospitalidad initiative.

These paths are inspired by the legacy of the Jesuit Frans Van der Lugt who lived for 50 years in Syria where he was killed in 2014 and where he made paths of fraternity with people of different origins and religious beliefs. “In homage to this, we continue to promote paths to symbolise the essence of unity of peoples beyond ideologies, religious beliefs, origin, gender: the will of fraternity, the harmonious coexistence between different religions and cultures, the rejection of all forms of armed violence, inequality and hostility” explained Raquel Martín, Director of Communication and Institutional Relations at Entreculturas.

The current context, characterised by social and political tensions caused by Covid-19 and by other structural crises that are prolonged over time and that affect the most vulnerable groups to a greater extent, leads thousands of refugees to get on the move, to embark on uncertain paths in which they experience situations of lack of protection, discrimination and constant violation of their rights. These are dangerous paths on which they risk and even lose their lives, a good example of which are the recent images of thousands of people trying to reach the Canary Islands and Ceuta. Luis Arancibia, Delegate of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus, explained that “in the face of this reality, we are not satisfied, and from the works of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus we are launching this proposal in which we invite citizens to put themselves in the place of refugees and displaced persons, to mobilise for the values of hospitality and dignified welcome through a Pact for Hospitality“.

The latest data, from mid-2020, show that 3.6% (280.6 million) of the world’s population resides in a country other than the country of birth, “among whom 79.5 million (around 1% of the world’s population) are people who have been forced to leave their country; the majority (73%) moving to countries neighbouring their country of origin” recalled Pablo Funes, International Cooperation Coordinator at Entreculturas. 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.

During the press conference, testimonies were heard, such as those of Abir Ahmad Sabra, English teacher at the Nicolas Kluiters Jesuit Refugee Service educational centre in Lebanon, who spoke of the importance of education for refugee minors and of the “enormous responsibility we have in accompanying refugees on their journey, their journey is our journey”. Along these lines, Sineyi Zambrano, an asylum seeker in Spain, recounted her journey as a refugee since she left Venezuela in 2018 until today and how important the reception flats of the Jesuit Migrant Service have been for her. “It has been three years since I arrived in Spain and now I feel that I am starting my journey, that I am building my future. My daughter and I have stability. It is essential for us to feel welcomed, accompanied and to feel that there are people and institutions that care about us”, she explained.

This situation “calls us to try to bridge five gaps: the gap of the journey in the absence of safe and legal channels; that of borders, where human rights must be respected; that of inclusion to avoid lack of protection and irregularity; that of building socio-community fabric; and the gap of coexistence to build new discourses, values and ways of living together that allow us to walk in the construction of a human family and a new society”, according to Jaime Pons, Coordinator of the Area of Hospitality at the Jesuit Migrant Service. In addition, ten necessary measures have been presented that must be implemented to guarantee Human Rights and the inclusion of forcibly displaced people.

All those who wish to join this initiative “can do so through different initiatives that can be found on the Caminos de Hospitalidad website or through #SumoMiCamino”, concluded Dani Martínez, Coordinator of the Hospitality Campaign.

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

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.

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.