About us

About JRS Australia

Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.

We undertake services at national and regional levels with the support of an international office in Rome. JRS was founded in November 1980 as a work of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits).

Our programs are found in 50 countries, providing assistance to refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities (urban refugees) and people held in detention centres.

JRS works chiefly in the fields of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. At the end of 2012, more than 600,000 individuals had been the direct beneficiaries of our projects.

More than 1,400 workers – many of them volunteers – contribute to our work around the world, including about 78 Jesuits and 66 religious from other congregations. These figures do not include the large number of refugees recruited to take part in the program as teachers, health workers and others.

We are deeply concerned with advocacy and human rights work.This involves ensuring that refugees are afforded their full rights while in exile and during repatriation as guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and working to strengthen the protection afforded to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

It extends to lobbying for and promoting international human rights legislation, either through participation in international campaigns and coalitions or through membership of international forums such as the UN Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC).

We also contribute to refugee research at the University of Oxford. Here, the Pedro Arrupe Tutor oversees research undertaken in the name of JRS and also facilitates the training of JRS personnel.

The main tasks of the tutorship include conducting research, and teaching and consultancy vis-à-vis refugees and forced migration for church agencies, NGOs and governments.


The Jesuit Refugee Service is an apostolic work of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as Jesuits).

For more than 460 years Jesuit priests and brothers have served the church in new and unexpected ways, changing residence, occupation and approach in order to advance the church’s mission by way of a faith that does justice.

Today, Jesuits have enhanced their collaboration to encompass both men and women who share this vision of service to faith and justice as well as dialogue with other religions and cultures. Such cooperation is manifested most notably in the work of Jesuit Refugee Service.

The mission of the Jesuit Refugee Service is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.

As a Catholic organisation and a work of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), JRS is inspired by the compassion and love of Jesus for the poor and excluded.

Our vision for JRS

In 1980, deeply shocked by the plight of thousands of Vietnamese boat people fleeing their war-torn country, Fr Pedro Arrupe, the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, felt compelled to act. He called on the Jesuits “to bring at least some relief to such a tragic situation”. And so the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was born, as our global response to a refugee crisis in Asia.

Today we continue to be invited by Fr Arrupe and by St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, to look at the world in a deeply spiritual way.

We see people “so diverse in dress and behaviour: some white and others black, some in peace and others at war, some weeping and others laughing, some healthy and others sick, some being born and others dying” (St Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises).

We see a world growing ever closer together through greater mobility and better communications.

But while goods and finances move freely in the global market, the same is not always true of people. There remain many racial, cultural, religious, political and economic divisions and borders; the gap between rich and poor is growing.

Due to unjust structures, a quarter of humanity lives on the edge, struggling to survive and maintain its dignity.

Conflicts erupt as people scramble for their share of dwindling resources. Living amid social disintegration and in failed states, they have little security, while environmental degradation and climate change present new threats.

Already excluded from the benefits of economic and technological developments, the poor are the victims of resource wars, of climate change and failing states. And it is the poor who end up being forcibly displaced from their homes.

More than 15 million of them are refugees, and over 25 million have been internally displaced in their own countries.

Today’s major displacements are in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. People of Islamic faith and culture now make up 70 per cent of all forcibly displaced persons.

Half of the world’s refugees remain ‘invisible’ in urban areas.

Refugees and asylum seekers are confronted with ever higher walls and frontiers of exclusion in Europe and other wealthier parts of the world.

They are denied their right to protection in a growing environment of hostility towards migrants and refugees. Their hopelessness is a threat to the future of our world.

We – Jesuits, lay people and religious working with JRS – are shocked by this reality of forcible displacement.

For the past 30 years, JRS has walked with forcibly displaced persons; accompanying them, serving them humbly, and advocating for justice and their rights to protection.

As we look forward to the challenges of the years to come, we are sustained by our faith and spiritual values.

As an international Catholic organisation and a work of the Jesuits, we are inspired by the example of Jesus and his compassion and love for the poor.

Given the magnitude of the challenges, JRS needs to become a stronger and more united international organisation.

As we plan for the coming years, we will continue to serve refugees who are forced to live on the edges of humanity.

We will strive to overcome geographical, racial, cultural and religious frontiers and divisions. We will work with compassion and love, which enable us to engage with people of all races, cultures and religions in an open and respectful way.

Although practical in its nature, our service will be equally spiritual, promoting hope and reconciliation.

We believe that education, learning together, and sharing knowledge are vital ingredients to nourish hope in people.

Our dream is a world free from frontiers, divisions and forcible displacement, where people can move freely and securely – a world where the value of hospitality is extended to everyone.

Peter Balleis SJ, International Director, Jesuit Refugee Service

Goal 1

Compassion for humanity on the edge

Moved by compassion and respect for human dignity, we will be flexible and focused in our response to the new emerging situations of forced displacement.


Rapid response to forced displacement

  • Inspired by the same compassion that gave rise to the founding of JRS, we will strengthen our capacity to respond flexibly to new emerging situations of forced displacement due to conflict and natural disasters.
  • JRS will establish response criteria, procedures, structures and alliances for an early response in times of crisis.
  • A JRS emergency assessment and start-up team will be established.
  • We will review our existing programmes to entrenched situations of displacement and develop capacity to respond flexibly to new emerging displacement.

Urban refugees

  • In view of the increasing urbanisation of forced migration, we will strengthen and coordinate our expertise and resources to develop an appropriate response to urban refugees that reflects best practices.

People vulnerable to human trafficking

  • Confronted with human trafficking as a dimension of forced displacement, JRS will undertake to work with other organisations in the protection of those most vulnerable to exploitation.

Accompaniment at grassroots level

  • JRS is internationally recognised for its closeness to the people it serves.
  • We will strengthen and support this facet of our mission and develop in-service programs to help team members recognise and deepen the ‘accompaniment’ aspect of their work with and for refugees.
  • Particular attention will be given to induction programs for new staff members into the JRS mission and values.



  • A rapid-response team will be fully operational and will be capable of responding effectively to emergency situations.
  • All regions will have evaluated their urban projects and incorporated the best practices identified in the March 2012 workshop.
  • JRS will have developed an in-service training program in the area of ‘accompaniment’ to be used by all regions in the training of staff members.


  • All long-term projects that may be in need of revision, and gaps in capacity will have been identified.


  • At least three regions will have developed programs to respond to human trafficking and will have met together to share best practices.

Goal 2

Rooted in faith, acting in justice

Inspired by faith and the values of inclusiveness and solidarity, we will seek to understand and address the causes of structural inequality. We will work in partnership with others to create communities of justice, dialogue, peace and reconciliation.


Intercultural, ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue

  • JRS is inspired by faith and respects the values of other religions and cultures.
  • We share the values of justice, dialogue, peace and reconciliation to create and sustain communities. Service and the struggle for justice make up the concrete inter-faith dialogue of daily life.
  • Given the call to justice and inter-faith dialogue, JRS will enhance its collaborative response with others to the displacement of largely Muslim populations.
  • We will develop inclusive ways of celebrating our shared spiritual values.

Renewing hospitality

  • JRS will promote a spirituality and culture of open doors that embodies hospitality in action.
  • We will oppose xenophobia and all forms of marginalisation and exclusion, and defend the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to full protection.


  • JRS recognises the great need for reconciliation in today’s world.
  • As an effective sign of God’s love and reconciliation, JRS will deepen this dimension of its mission throughout its work.

Local and global advocacy

  • JRS advocacy work addresses the intermediate causes of forced migration and empowers people to claim the rights to which they are entitled.
  • To ensure that advocacy is linked to our mission, including service and accompaniment at the grassroots level, all JRS regions will integrate advocacy into the project cycle, which includes project proposals, monitoring and evaluation.
  • JRS will strengthen its global networking and alliances that ensure effective coordination of its advocacy efforts.

Helping refugees to tell their stories

  • Using the opportunities afforded by new technologies, JRS will explore and implement coordinated ways of helping to bring the voices and stories of refugees to a wider global audience, while respecting at all times the security and integrity of those concerned.
  • All JRS regions will join the international website, working together to explore new tools of communication.



  • All regions will be contributing refugee stories to the international website, in keeping with JRS ethical policies.


  • A JRS communications manual will provide clear norms for producing electronic and printed materials.


  • Three pilot projects in reconciliation will have been implemented, projects to map aspects of reconciliation work will be under-way in the regions, and an international JRS workshop on reconciliation will have been held.
  • Advocacy will be integrated into the process of project planning and proposals.


  • JRS will have published a paper on its learning and expertise in inter-faith dialogue.
  • JRS will have a consolidated presence in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia promoting communities of inter-faith dialogue and collaboration.

Goal 3

Kindling hope through learning

Based on our belief in the dignity and interdependence of the human family, we will empower uprooted people through learning, fostering a future filled with hope.


Focus on the most vulnerable in education

  • In our primary and secondary education projects, JRS will give priority to the education of girls and teacher training.
  • We will ensure the protection of all children and, where necessary, promote psychosocial care.
  • All JRS education programmes will employ an holistic approach, respecting and developing students’ cultural values and character.

Making tertiary education accessible for refugees

  • In collaboration with Jesuit universities, JRS will strive to increase refugees’ access to higher education through online technology.

Promoting excellence in refugee education

  • JRS will ensure that its broad experience in refugee education and the accomplishments of its educational programmes, including best practices and materials, are made accessible to all JRS regions, making the most effective use of information technology.
  • University collaboration and support JRS will strengthen relationships with Jesuit universities, working with them to develop opportunities for student learning, internships, joint advocacy projects, and academic research on refugee-related issues.



  • JRS will have increased the number of Jesuit Commons – Higher Education on the Margins (JC-HEM) learning sites to at least six.
  • JRS will have deepened its working relationship with Jesuit universities, evidenced through the creation of three to four new collaborative programmes.
  • Educational materials, including best practices, will be accessible to JRS regions on the international website.
  • The majority of JRS educational projects will include psychosocial care for vulnerable children.


A stronger, more united JRS

Firmly rooted in the values of subsidiarity and participation, we will develop and apply coherent standards in governance and management, so that we work with and for forcibly displaced persons, in international unity, with transparency and accountability.


Financial sustainability

  • JRS will establish a fundraising strategy, engaging an international fundraiser to work in close collaboration with all regions, taking into account operational needs and plans, and coordinating with existing fundraising work at the regional level.

Implementation of human resources policies

  • All regional offices of JRS will have skilled, well-trained human resources personnel.
  • Regional human resources officers will be supported by the International Human Resources Coordinator and make use of newly revised JRS documents (Human Resources Policy Manual, Human Resources Guidelines for Leaders, and the Code of Conduct).
  • They will also make consistent and regular use of existing JRS human resources tools.

JRS staff development

  • JRS will achieve greater international unity by developing a well-coordinated induction and ongoing training programme for leaders and all core staff.
  • Application of programme and financial policies and tools JRS will consolidate its organisational effectiveness and unity through a consistent application of policies and protocols, and consistent monitoring of project quality at regional and national levels.

Strengthening organisational communications

  • JRS will improve and coordinate its internal communications efforts, including rules for e-mail usage and an electronic library of JRS documents at both the regional and international levels.

Respecting mutuality and subsidiarity

  • Based on our respect for the principle of subsidiarity, JRS will work to ensure excellent communications with Jesuit provinces, Jesuit conferences and all levels of JRS structures and leadership. JRS will reach out to Jesuits in formation to increase their awareness of the needs of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
  • Plans for assistance to refugees by JRS and all provinces will be mutually complementary.



  • The JRS Internal Norms and Guidelines will be distributed and applied across the organisation.
  • All regions will have competent HR personnel in place, making use of the updated JRS Human Resources Handbook as well as additional materials and tools.
  • The JRS internal e-mail system will be applied consistently.


  • All regions will have developed a rotating schedule for speaking with Jesuits-information communities within their regions.
  • Every region will have a fundraising strategy coordinated with that of JRS International. JRS will have widened its funding base of private individuals and foundations and will have increased the proportion of income from private and Jesuit sources to 50 per cent by 2015.
  • Increased fundraising coordination across JRS will have reduced the gap between operational proposals and available resources.


  • A culture of learning and staff development will have been established with regular follow-up training for all core JRS staff on both mission and technical aspects of our work.
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