Marking World Day of Migrants and Refugees

September 25, 2021 in Featured News, News

Pope Francis’s Message for the World Day of Refugees and Migrants », 26 September 2021, forms the basis of the statement below from the Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland, to mark this special day.

JRS Ireland’s Director Eugene Quinn links the theme of Francis’ message to JRS’s response globally, regionally and locally to the ongoing Afghan crisis. He also makes reference to Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ’s recent statement on Afghanistan as Chair of Bishop’s Commission for Justice and Peace.

World Day of Refugees and Migrants 2021: Towards an ever wider ‘we’

On the occasion of World Day of Refugee and Migrants, Sunday 26th September 2021, Eugene Quinn, National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Ireland reflects on the theme of the Pope’s message, Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’, in the context of responding to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan

An inclusive response to forced migration

Pope Francis in his Message for the World Day of Refugee and Migrants 2021 makes an appeal “to journey together towards an ever wider “we” to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind.” Francis calls for a more inclusive response to refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants among us not as other but as a wider ‘we’. We are offered the opportunity “to break down the walls that separate us” and “to build bridges that encourage a culture of encounter” and welcome.

Solidarity with Afghani people in crisis

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) stands in solidarity with the Afghan people in the face of conflict, forced displacement and suffering in their country. According to UNHCR, half a million Afghans are expected to flee, mainly to neighbouring countries. JRS is appealing for peace and an end to violence and persecution in the region. It is crucial to re-establish security for Afghan women, men, and children so they can resume their lives in dignity and safety.

Eugene Quinn, Irish National Director, explains JRS “is calling on all governments across the world to take concrete actions to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate those who have been forced to leave. Many Afghans are making difficult decisions to ensure the safety of their families, and there is a moral and legal obligation on those countries that are able to offer protection and refuge”.

JRS, which is present in more than 50 countries worldwide, will continue to carry out its mission to walk with those forced to flee their homes and support Afghan refugees in regions and countries around the world. Wealthier countries can demonstrate solidarity by offering additional resettlement places to Afghan refugees, thereby striving towards the wider ‘we’, and enabling this most vulnerable and at-risk cohort forcibly displaced persons to rebuild their lives.

 Europe’s call to action

At the regional level, 50 NGOs working on asylum and migration and Afghan Diaspora organisations in Europe, including JRS Europe; have issued a Joint Statement calling for action in response to the emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The Statement appeals to the EU to place protection at the centre of its response. There are three keys call on the EU and EU Member states:

  1. A targeted resettlement scheme for vulnerable Afghan refugees, to match the rapid increase in humanitarian needs arising from the crisis. These places must be additional to existing EU member state refugee resettlement commitments, which UNHCR estimates should be around 36,000 persons.
  2. Beyond expanding refugee resettlement to provide a durable solution to refugees, EU countries should expand all safe and legal pathways to immediately bring people in need of protection to safety from Afghanistan and neighbouring states. Iran and Pakistan currently host nearly 90% of displaced Afghans – over two million registered refugees in total – and should not have to bear this responsibility alone.
  3. Uphold access to a fair and full asylum process for Afghan and other nationals in Europe, who have made their way by other routes, while supporting their inclusion, integration, and participation in society. All deportations and returns of unsuccessful asylum applicants should be suspended and the granting of status on humanitarian grounds considered.

JRS Europe and the 20 National Offices, including Ireland, endorse these calls for concrete action in support of the suffering people of Afghanistan. However, it is critically important that any measures are additional and do not disadvantage existing asylum seekers fleeing ongoing conflicts across the world, such as in Syria, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Yemen or South Sudan to name a few.

Ireland can and should do more

In a statement on 17 August 2021, Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, welcomed Ireland’s intervention at the UN Security Council on the crisis in Afghanistan and the appeal for safe and reliable humanitarian access for its people – together with the commitment of the Government to accept 150 refugees. Furthermore, Bishop McGuckian urged that the speedier processing of asylum claims for Afghan applicants and the acceptance of additional refugees in Ireland as a policy priority.

Bishop McGuckian said, “Ireland, as one of the wealthier nations of the world, must do more for forcibly displaced people in terms of welcome and integration through State and community supports.  Yes, our hearts are deeply moved by the panicked scenes of people fleeing, but it should not take such scenes and circumstances to force governments to act.”

Accompanying and serving Afghan asylum applicants

Since the emergence of the crisis, JRS Ireland has responded by reaching out to and accompanying Afghan asylum seekers and refugees residing in Direct Provision. JRS Ireland has listened to and directly supported individual Afghan asylum seekers, residng in Dublin, Limerick, Clare, Monaghan and Kildare, to proactively engage with decision-making bodies and the Department of Justice.

Mr. Quinn added that “The public announcement by the Irish Government of accelerated case processing and the offering of more than 200 places for the purpose of resettling refugees and other persons fleeing Afghanistan are welcome. The challenge for support organisations on the ground is to ensure those promises are translated into concrete actions that benefit vulnerable and at-risk Afghan nationals in Direct Provision centres across the country.”

Many asylum seekers have spoken to JRS of the terrible fears they have for the safety of their loved ones and their hopelessness at being unable at this distance to change the fate of family and friends facing persecution and forced displacement from the incoming Taliban regime. Their sense of powerlessness at this time of crisis is palpable.

In response, template letters were developed by JRS Ireland and sent with the consent of applicants to the relevant decision-making bodies advising them of their specific situation and stating their desire to avail of the publicly announced accelerated processing of their protection claims. A further letter was sent to Department of Justice putting ‘on the record’ names and contact details of at-risk family members still in Afghanistan whom they wish to be brought to safety in Ireland and requesting information on the nature of any humanitarian assistance programmes and the application process to avail of them.

Mr Quinn concluded: “In walking with and accompanying Afghan nationals and other forced migrants across Ireland, JRS works in the service of the wider ‘we’.  Our work is informed by listening to and hearing the voices and lived experiences of forcibly displaced persons with the aim of addressing their priority needs and ensuring their rights are fully vindicated.

 Get involved: Support the international work of JRS in Afghanistan

If you wish to support JRS’s mission in accompanying, advocating and serving the cause of the Afghan people at this time of humanitarian crisis, you can make a donation ». Alternatively, you can join JRS Europe » to advocate for the safety and protection of Afghan refugees.