UK welcome for refugees to be expanded into Europe

Welcoming the stranger: the JRS UK 'At Home' scheme
Welcoming the stranger: the JRS UK 'At Home' scheme

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Europe is using the experience of JRS UK’s Communities of Hospitality to establish a network more widely.

For many years now, JRS in Europe has been developing new ways to provide hospitality to refugees, whether it be through day centres, cultural centres, family hosting projects or simply coffee mornings. It is now working to set up new Communities of Hospitality (CoH) in four European countries – Belgium, Italy, Malta and Romania – where citizens will have the opportunity to develop close friendly relations with forced migrants through different social activities.

JRS Europe plans to use the national CoH experiences in the UK, Germany and Poland to promote the creation of new Communities and to establish a network where individuals and groups share their experiences, identify best practices and advocate for the rights of forced migrants and in favour of the values of hospitality and solidarity.

Respect, kindness and friendship

“At JRS UK, we seek to promote a culture of welcome and solidarity with our destitute refugee friends,” says Communities of Hospitality Coordinator, Nicolette Busuttil. “Through the ‘At Home’ hosting scheme, we match destitute asylum-seekers with religious communities and parishes willing to offer short-term accommodation.”

Among the Jesuit communities that are taking part in the ‘At Home’ scheme is Mount Street in central London, which, since August 2016, has welcomed Mourad in their midst, providing hospitality that goes beyond merely providing accommodation. “Being hosted has made a big difference to my life,” says Mourad. “You cannot compare life on the streets to having a roof over your head. When you are on the streets you do not eat well, you do not sleep well and as a result you cannot think well. I am so happy now because I am treated with respect and I have experienced kindness and friendship from very good people. Through them I have rediscovered my freedom and this has made all the difference!”

JRS UK acknowledges that the experience of hosting destitute asylum-seekers can seem daunting at first for religious communities and parishes; so it provides support every step of the way to facilitate an encounter that is profoundly fruitful for both hosts and guests. “In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we acknowledge that God’s mercy is open to all and we have been called to share God’s love with every person,” explains Nicolette Busuttil. “Being hosted is often a lifeline for people who have grown accustomed to being treated with suspicion and hostility.”

Email JRS on nicolette.busuttil@jrs.net or phone 020 7488 7310 for further information.