Renewed fighting in northern Syria since June 3 has sent a further 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey’s southern Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent of these are women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency. (UNHCR)
(Washington, D.C. and King's Cross, NSW) September 9, 2015 — The impact of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe has jolted citizens in Australia and the United States into realizing they can respond more urgently and generously to the humanitarian disaster caused by the Syrian conflict. JRS Australia welcomes the Australian government’s determination to provide further assistance to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
Jesuit Refugee Service is working within Syria, in neighboring countries, along transit routes and within Europe to provide safe spaces for refugees and assist them with food and water, clothing, bedding and medicine, and counseling and education programs.
In the United States, JRS is urging concerned citizens to call on the U.S. government to demonstrate leadership at this critical time. Only by rallying the voices of citizens can we demonstrate that we will not stand by while this crisis unfolds before our eyes. We must ensure that refugees are offered the dignity, compassion and opportunity they deserve.
• Re-double efforts to address the root causes of the conflict through robust political and diplomatic efforts across the region.
• Increase current levels of humanitarian aid, including life-saving resources, and invest in education programs for refugees.
• Increase U.S. refugee admission numbers to provide a safe haven for those in need.
JRS Australia urges the Australian government to increase immediately the current annual humanitarian intake from 13,750 to at least double that, given the scale of the current crisis.
"The Prime Minister has said that Australia will 'do the right thing' and that it is part of the Australian character to assist people when they are in trouble. The right thing to do now is to increase the humanitarian intake, so that vulnerable refugees from Syria may find safety here, while we continue to offer similar protection to refugees from other troubled parts of the world," says Fr Aloysious Mowe S.J., Director of JRS Australia.
JRS urges the Australian government not to neglect other refugees closer to home, who are stranded in countries that do not offer them adequate protection, and are in need of resettlement.
"Large numbers of stateless Rohingya are also fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar. Hazaras are facing systematic and determined extermination in Afghanistan. We should not neglect these people while we help the Syrians,” says Fr Mowe. "Only an overall increase in the numbers we take will allow us to do the right thing."
JRS is alarmed by suggestions that Syrian refugees be offered Temporary Safe Haven Visas (SHVs), last used to resettle Kosovars in 1999.
"Syria is not Kosovo. There seems little prospect in Syria for peace, let alone reconstruction, in the foreseeable future. Why would we take a traumatized people, and subject them to the stress and uncertainty of a temporary stay? The Syrian refugees need stability, and the possibility of starting a new future, a new life," says Fr Mowe.
JRS urges the government to show political courage and humanitarian leadership by offering permanent resettlement to Syrian refugees, and to do so regardless of religion. Voices urging Australia to favor Christian refugees over non-Christians must be resisted. We should honor our tradition of helping the most vulnerable, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
JRS also recommends that the government increase funding to the United Nations Refugees agency (UNHCR) in the Middle East.
The recent Australian budget announced $1 billion (Australian) aid cuts in 2015-16. Funding to the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, has been one of the hardest hit. The amount Australia provided in humanitarian aid to Syria from mid-2014 to mid-2015 dropped from $53.7 million to less than $8.8 million.
"If Australia is genuinely concerned about the Syrian crisis, it should increase substantially its contribution to UNHCR, and in particular in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey," says Fr. Mowe.
JRS already serves tens of thousands of refugees in Europe. Sample programs include:
• The Welcome program in Paris matches an asylum seeker to a family or religious community willing to host them for up to a month. Other JRS offices in Europe plan to model programs after France.
• the JRS safe house in Macedonia house for refugee families.
• in Malta JRS provides counseling services and legal aid for asylum seekers and refugees.
• JRS continues to run language and vocational training courses from Portugal to Romania in order to help refugees integrate.
• In London, JRS has been involved in a project that helps women asylum seekers learn to ride a bike. Seemingly a simple skill, it not only boosts confidence but facilitates freedom of movement.
• In Italy, JRS helps more than 30,000 refugees each year, cooking hot meals daily, offering medical and legal aid, helping children with school supplies, providing language classes, and more.
• In Romania, JRS provides legal aid, housing, language classes and more to refugees including Syrians.
• In Germany, for those threatened with deportation, JRS offers specialized legal aid.
• In Portugal, JRS offers training to resettled refugees in skills like care for the elderly so they can get jobs. JRS Portugal is a member of a movement providing answers about legal issues and other support, so that local groups who offer to help refugees can effectively welcome them.
Furthermore, JRS is making a needs assessment in Greece to open a program there by the end of the year, and JRS continues European wide advocacy for humanitarian visas and expedited processing of visas.
Please click here to make a secure online donation to support Jesuit Refugee Service efforts on behalf of Syrian refugees.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. JRS advocates for just and generous policies and programs for the benefit of victims of forced displacement, so that those made vulnerable by exile can receive support and protection and durable solution to their plight can be achieved.
JRS/USA witnesses to God's presence in vulnerable and often forgotten people driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of their human rights.
As one of the ten geographic regions of Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS/USA serves as the major refugee outreach arm of U.S. Jesuits and their institutional ministries, mobilizing their response to refugee situations in the U.S. and abroad. Through our advocacy and fund raising efforts, JRS/USA provides support for the work of JRS throughout the world.
JRS/USA gives help, hope, ear and voice to vulnerable people on the move by being present to and bearing witness to their plight; by relieving their human suffering and restoring hope; by addressing the root causes of their displacement and improving international responses to refugee situations.
In addition, JRS/USA inspires the Ignatian family and others to respond together to the needs of refugees and displaced persons worldwide and forges strong partnerships with like-minded institutions and agencies devoted to the cause of refugees and displaced persons.
JRS works in more than 45 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of nearly 760,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
In 2014, approximately 142,000 children, young people and adults received primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. Further, JRS undertakes advocacy to ensure all displaced children be provided with access to quality education. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.