Portugal: Helping Refugees to Relocate

26 October 2016

Three times a week, a computer training class is provided by Wahid, originally from Afghanistan and living in a nearby camp with his family. Wahid fully developed the weekly curriculum and facilitates the class in English and Farsi using six laptops for the women living in the JRS shelter while their children attend education classes next door at the Pedro Arrupe Integration Center in Athens. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Jesuit Refugee Service Portugal, in coordination with PAR (Refugee Support Platform, a Portuguese coalition of host organizations), are spearheading a project with JRS Greece to help support, inform and accompany asylum seekers who are eligible for relocation from Greece to Portugal.

Facilitating Relocation

JRS Greece director Fr. Maurice Joyeux S.J., was in Lisbon in mid-September to participate in a meeting to discuss the acceleration of the relocation process from Greece. He visited JRS-Portugal headquarters and shelter and spoke with them about what’s happening in Greece and about JRS’ role in the country.

One of the most important activities developed in the camps and in the centers is listening to the dreams, concerns and complaints of the people. A team of volunteers from PAR is helping JRS-Greece to fulfill this task and to organize animation activities on the islands.

“I think that the example of PAR action is good, they are helping us a lot, and we need to develop it, which means sending more volunteers to the camps, not only to do humanitarian work but to listen to the people and to help EASO [European Asylum Support Office] and all the organizations accelerating the processes of listening to the refugees and fighting against disinformation,” Joyeux says.

Referring to the contradicting information that circulates in the camps regarding the relocation process, Joyeux continues, “We have to accompany these people and give them the correct information about the relocation countries from the beginning, in the camps, on the islands, in Athens, and then in the welcoming country.”

Besides all the logistical and social challenges JRS is facing in the centers and in the camps, fighting against indifference is also needed. For this, Maurice calls for creativity and imagination.

“We see, you say ‘we have not to be indifferent’ but I will say it positively ‘we have to be different’ and also we have to be curious about the differences and we should also find again our roots and understand much more who we are, where do we come. And that is not only a challenge but a big opportunity and a grace we have today.”

These people need somebody to listen to them. We can’t forget that thousands of people don’t have a voice anymore because they died: children, grandfathers, mothers, and fathers. We don’t have the right to forget them.
Fr. Maurice Joyeux S.J.

Humanitarian Relief and Education

JRS Greece runs a reception center and an integration center in Athens and gives direct support to about 200 people. Since March this year, almost one thousand people stayed in the reception center. The integration center accompanies mainly refugee children, giving them non-formal education.

In the integration center there are 150 children from 14 different nationalities and with them come families. JRS Greece aims to develop ways to help them reach formal education, since in Greece, at this moment, there are 25,000 refugee children out of the formal educational system.

To respond to the number of help requests, JRS Greece is now planning the opening of a new reception center for 40 people, where Joyeux wants refugees from the other center to collaborate. Maurice’s desire for people to be listened is also a priority.

“These people need somebody to listen to them. We can’t forget that thousands of people don’t have a voice anymore because they died: children, grandfathers, mothers and fathers. We don’t have the right to forget them. Recently, we went to the sea and asked for forgiveness. We took them so they could have reconciliation with the sea, because the sea is innocent, but the people aren’t,” said Fr. Maurice Joyeux S.J.