Advocacy research: A means for change
The basis of research is observation and recording. JRS staff and volunteers in Europe do this every day. By being with forced migrants in the places where we encounter them - in detention centres, at the borders, on the streets - we better understand what they go through as refugees in Europe. Our understanding is improved because we observe and note what we see, hear and feel. This is the basis for our advocacy.

But there is also a place for more rigorous research. JRS personnel are ideally placed to systematically investigate how EU asylum and migration policies affect forced migrants. The data that we collect is analysed for comparisons, patterns and frequencies -- results that can indicate to policymakers which decisions ought to be made in order to safeguard and protect the rights of forced migrants.

Forced migrants are at the centre of all research that we do. Above all, we strive to uphold their dignity by respecting their voluntary informed consent. The data that we collect from forced migrants are the most substantial part of our research, because in few other places do their voices receive prominent standing. We often know much about government and institutional systems, but little about what forced migrants actually experience, and how they react to the policies and laws they are subject to. This is where we strive to make a difference.

Our research projects typically involve the collaboration of several JRS country offices and other non-JRS partners. A methodology is planned together with an academic research advisor and the project steering committee. Data is collected by our partners and analysed centrally by JRS Europe. The results are presented in comprehensive reports, and recommendations are made to EU and national policymakers on migration and asylum.

Read below about our most recent research projects.


  • Detention and vulnerability
  • The Dublin Regulation
  • Alternatives to detention
  • Migrant destitution in Europe
  • Europe's borders
The DEVAS project (2008-2010)

Download File
Purpose
To research the effects of detention on vulnerable asylum seekers and to understand how detention impacts the physical and mental health of individual migrants.

Main result
The publication of Becoming Vulnerable in Detention, based on results from interviews with 685 asylum seekers and irregular migrants detained in 21 EU countries.

Summary of major findings
Detention seriously harms the physical and mental health of vulnerable asylum seekers and irregular migrants, even those who entered detention without any previous health problems. Migrant detainees quickly become susceptible to hazardous psychological stress. The longer they are detained, the worse their conditions become. 

Migrants suffer from weight loss, insomnia, migraines and depression due to severe psychological stress. This is not only the view of detainees themselves; even many detention centre staff persons agree that the health of migrants are put into danger by being detained. 

Migrants experience several problems during their detainment. Firstly, the vast majority do not know when they will be released, which leads to a crippling sense of uncertainty and inability to plan for the future. Secondly, detained migrants are cut off from the outside world and people who might help them, such as lawyers, NGOs, social workers and medical care. Thirdly, the prison-like conditions of many detention centres -- barred windows and doorways, strict daily regimens and the presence of police guards -- give migrants the impression that they have committed a crime, even though they haven't. 

Time period
Autumn 2008 to Spring 2010. 

Financing
Co-financed by the European Commission under the European Refugee Fund.

Partners
Caritas Austria; JRS Belgium; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee; Symfiliosi (Cyprus); Counselling Centre for Refugees (Czech Republic); Estonian Refugee Council; JRS Germany; Greek Council for Refugees; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; JRS Ireland; JRS Italy; Caritas Latvia; Caritas Lithuania; JRS Malta; Dutch Refugee Council; Caritas Poland; JRS Portugal; JRS Romania; Caritas Slovakia; JRS Slovenia; Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid; JRS Sweden; JRS United Kingdom

Support for the research methodology was provided by The Institute for Ethics and Rights in Medicine, a research platform based in the University of Vienna.




The DIASP project (2011-2013)

Download File
Purpose
To research how the Dublin Regulation affects the fundamental human rights of asylum seekers.

Main result
The publication of Protection Interrupted, based on results from interviews with 257 asylum seekers in 10 EU countries, all of whom were in the 'Dublin system'. 

Summary of major findings
The Dublin Regulation, a cornerstone of the Common European Asylum System, does not make it any easier or safer for a person to access an asylum procedure in Europe. Instead, people are shipped around Europe to countries which they have little or no connection to. Parents become separated from their children and people are frequently detained. JRS Europe found that, on average, people had been removed from three to four European countries, often without ever having the chance to submit an asylum application.

An asylum seeker's search for protection is impeded in several ways. Firstly, asylum seekers know very little about the regulation, how it will affect them and what their rights are. Secondly, people are moved to EU countries that do not offer decent housing and basic services, leaving many asylum seekers homeless and destitute. Thirdly, asylum seekers are detained in multiple EU countries, seemingly for no other reason than for being an asylum seeker. 

A major problem revealed by the study are the divergent asylum procedures and basic conditions found in EU countries. Above all, the study finds that people would feel better protected if they could personally influence the decisions governments take on their asylum cases. 

Time period
Autumn 2011 to Spring 2013

Financing
Co-financed by the European Commission under the European Refugee Fund.

Partners
JRS Belgium; JRS Germany; JRS Italy; JRS Malta; JRS Romania; JRS Sweden; JRS United Kingdom; The Halina Niec Centre (Poland); Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Forum Réfugiés-Cosi (France)
From deprivation to liberty

Download File
Purpose
To research migrants' perceptions of their participation in alternative to detention programmes. 

Main result
Publication of From Deprivation to Liberty, based on interviews with 25 migrants in alternative to detention programmes in Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Summary of main findings
JRS Europe researched three types of alternatives to detention in Europe by interviewing the migrants who were participating in them. In Belgium, JRS spoke with families who live in private housing in the community; in Germany, with unaccompanied minors living in a shelter run by a Protestant church charity; in the United Kingdom, with refused asylum seekers who were regularly reporting to the authorities. 

Alternatives to detention are policies and practices that enable the state to resolve a migrant's case in the community, rather than putting them into detention. 

The report identifies several factors that contribute to the well-functioning of alternatives to detention. Firstly, migrants must be given access to decent housing; if a person does not have this, then he or she may find it difficult to cooperate on asylum and migration procedures. Secondly, the state must provide comprehensive support. Social support, legal assistance, medical help, child care and subsistence support are all needed so migrants can feel secure. Thirdly, states must provide migrants with regular and up-to-date information on their legal cases. Fourthly, free legal assistance must be provided. Fifthly, states must focus on all possible outcomes with migrants. In cases where the state only focuses on return, for example, the likelihood is greater that migrants will not cooperate and abscond. Finally, the state should provide all support at the beginning of a migrant's case. States that are upfront and honest with migrants are more likely to develop a relationship of trust, which is critically needed in order for alternatives to detention to work.

Time period
July to December 2011

Financing
Co-financed by the EU Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme

Partners
JRS Belgium, JRS Germany, JRS United Kingdom
The ANDES project (2006-2011)

Download File
Purpose
To build an advocacy network for destitution forced migrants in order to highlight their plight at the EU level and to find comprehensive solutions to uphold their fundamental human rights.

Main result
Summary of main findings
Throughout Europe, thousands of migrants are deprived of their basic needs and denied their fundamental human rights. They have little or no access to education, social welfare, housing, healthcare and employment. They are left destitute as a consequence of state laws and policies. Their exclusion from society leads to new, invisible, borders that divide local communities, regions and countries.

Destitution affects many groups of migrants living in Europe:
- Recognised refugeesThroughout Europe there are refugees living in sub-standard conditions, and who are unable to receive treatment for injuries and trauma that have resulted from persecution. In Italy, for example, there are no programmes to assist recognised refugees with housing, employment, or their social welfare needs. Many live in dilapidated shacks in Rome, unable to live a dignified life.
- Asylum seekersMany persons who apply for asylum protection in Europe do not have access to basic reception conditions during their determination procedure, or while they are in the appeals phase. Left without secure housing, medical care and employment, they are placed at a fundamental disadvantage at a time when they are extremely vulnerable.
- Undocumented migrants: Many become undocumented due to serious livelihood pressures. They may have been refused asylum protection, or may have overstayed their visa, being unable to return home due to economic, social and political instability. They live in Europe without the most basic and fundamental rights.
- Persons with a 'tolerated status': Throughout Europe there are persons who cannot return home for valid reasons. Their embassies may not come forward with necessary documentation, or the authorities may be unable to undertake removal. Many times these persons are given a ‘tolerated’ status. They can stay in the territory, but can do little else.

Time period
Autumn 2006 to Spring 2011

Financing
Completed with funding from the European Programme for Integration and Migration, and the Network of European Foundations.

Partners
JRS Germany, JRS Italy, JRS Malta, JRS Portugal, JRS Romania, Cei Migra (Spain), JRS Sweden, JRS United Kingdom, JRS Ukraine, JRS Ireland
Externalisation of EU asylum and migration

Purpose
To document the experiences of forced migrants who are at the borders of Europe and to investigate how EU policies affect their search for protection. 

Main result
The publication of several booklets, all of which are based on first-hand accounts obtained from forced migrants. 
Summary of main findings
Asylum seekers and forced migrants encounter significant obstacles to protection at the EU borders. From outright torture at the hands of militias in Libya, to living in decrepit conditions in Macedonia, the stories of the many individuals we spoke to are remarkably similar: a loss of dignity and rights at the borders of Europe, and in ability to find protection. 

Nearly every migrant's experience is related to the EU's efforts to strengthen its borders and increasingly keep protection-seekers from coming to Europe. Most often this is manifested by the EU's transfer of funds to neighbouring countries, which are used to build detention centres and strengthen their own security and border forces. Consequently it has become very hard for a forced migrant in any of the countries that we investigated to continue onward to Europe. Were these countries to have sufficient refugee protection systems, then perhaps many of the forced migrants we interviewed could find a life there. In reality, none of the countries we reported on had systems in place to assess people's asylum applications and provide them with a dignified standard of living. This is why many forced migrants risk their lives by going to Europe.