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.

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.

Proposal for the Reform of the Regulation on Aliens to guarantee the inclusion of unaccompanied migrant children and young people

CHILDHOOD AND MIGRATION ORGANISATIONS AND PROFESSIONALS PROPOSE A MODIFICATION OF THE REGULATION ON FOREIGNERS TO GUARANTEE THE RIGHT TO DOCUMENTATION FOR CHILDREN ARRIVING ALONE IN SPAIN.

These proposals, made within the framework of the public consultation process opened by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration at the beginning of February, have the sole purpose of facilitating the transition to adult life for all children.

The proposal for modification put forward by professionals and expert bodies aims to guarantee the full and effective integration of these children and young people into Spanish society, in accordance with national and international legislation that guarantees the protection of human rights, and in particular, children’s rights.

The document presented focuses on the articles relating to the identification, documentation, processing and renewal of residence and work authorisations for children and adolescents who have arrived alone in Spain and who have been under the care and/or guardianship of the public protection entities of the Cities and Autonomous Communities. In line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations already accepted by the Ministry, the need for an exhaustive modification of Articles 196, 197 and 198 is proposed, and, going a step further, modifications to Articles 148, 190 and 211 of the same regulatory text are proposed.

In addition, several Transitional Provisions are included for the retroactive application of the Regulation, with the aim of documenting all young people who, although they were minors from 1 January 2018 to the present day, did not have access to their documentation despite being entitled to it, which places them in a situation of social exclusion.

The current regulation multiplies administrative procedures, dilutes responsibilities between the different administrations and does not provide agile and effective responses to the real needs of these children. The lack of automatic work authorisation for young migrants of working age, the demands on the business sector and young people for the processing of their work authorisation and subsequent hiring, the validity of only one year for the residence cards of minors under guardianship and the obstacles to their renewal, the difficulties in obtaining registration cards and the disparity of criteria at provincial level for their processing, and the non-recognition of the validity of children’s identity documents issued by the authorities in their countries of origin, are some of the issues that have left children and young people in a state of absolute defencelessness.

HERE THE PRESS RELEASE WITH ALL THE PROPOSALS

CONSULT HERE THE FULL DOCUMENT OF RLOEX REFORM PROPOSALS

SIGNATORIES:

Aldeas Infantiles SOS, Alucinos la Salle, Asociación Española de Abogados Extranjeristas, Asociación Noves Vies, Asociación Pro Derechos de la Infancia (Prodein), Asociación Progestión, Cáritas, Col.lectiu Hourria, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado (CEAR), Comisión de Ayuda al Refugiado (CEAR) – Euskadi, Coordinadora de Barrios, Coordinadora Estatal de Plataformas Sociales Salesianas (CEPSS), Coordinadora Obrim Fronteres, Cruz Roja Juventud, Federación Andalucía Acoge, Federación Estatal de SOS Racismo, Fundación Raíces, La Merced Migraciones, Plataforma de Infancia, Pueblos Unidos – Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Save the Children, UNICEF España, Voluntarios por otro Mundo Wasata Sans Frontières