JRS Europe’s Annual General Meeting: Fostering integration in the city

30 April 2019

Brussels, 30 April 2019 – More than 50 JRS staff members from over 12 countries came together this April in Barcelona for JRS Europe’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), specially dedicated this year to the topic of integration in the city.

“At JRS, we accompany people on arrival or people who have been in Europe for some years; we accompany them learning languages, searching for a job, when they go to the doctor or when they enrol their children in school. Cities are full of opportunities, but also of challenges for everybody: locals, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees”, reflected Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ, director of JRS Europe.

The AGM has been a space to reflect on the challenges the city presents for our work and to share best practices for integration across Europe. Most importantly, we discussed all those who live in our cities and whose irregular administrative situation forces them into a life of destitution and vulnerability.

The first day of exchanges included a discussion with academic migration experts who presented the theoretical framework on integration and valuable insights into the Spanish and Catalonian local context. Luis Rodriguez, from the University Institute of Studies on Migration (IUEM), presented the research project on Social Integration of Population of Immigrant Origin in Spain. Silvia Carrasco, from the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) discussed the challenges and opportunities for the integration of immigrants in Catalonia and highlighted the importance of including both locals and migrants in any integration project to shape cities that foster co-existence and respect for the other. Finally, the panel session was closed by Xavier Alonso from the Generalitat de Catalunya, who addressed public integration policies in Catalonia. 

On the second day, we learnt more from our colleagues at Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes (SJM Spain) and Migra Studium about the concrete experience of immigrants in Barcelona. The Hospitality campaign, run by Migra Studium in Catalonia (Campaña Hospitalidad), is a key project that facilitates integration of migrants and refugees in the city by bringing locals and newcomers together. Sanja Rahim and Olga Correa, collaborating also with Migra Studium, referred to the difficulties that destitute and vulnerable people can face in the urban context of Barcelona. On the other hand, Kiran Khan from Migra Studium informed us about the newly launched Pakistan/Bengal trade dynamization programme running currently in the neighbourhoods Raval and Gòtic that seeks to provide small and medium-sized entrepreneurs from various countries with advice on how to expand their businesses.

JRS staff members also had the opportunity to visit some organizations working to promote the integration of migrants in Catalonian society:

Migra Studium opened its doors and welcomed the participants in the very heart of the Gòtic quarter of Barcelona so that they could discover the three areas of its work: welcome services, reflection, and cultural and religious diversity.
Fundació Salut Alta works in the outskirts of Barcelona. Here the passion and the commitment of the team is incredible. Salut Alta develops and runs education projects with children, teenagers and their families to give them hope and help them build a safer neighbourhood that promotes coexistence and tolerance.
Fundació La Vinya was created by three parishes in 1998 to support community actions. Nowadays, it works on non-formal education projects with children and their families, gives accompaniment for adults in need, especially migrant women, and additionally, runs a food bank for families who need it. 
The visits were extremely enriching. We often find ourselves in cities which still do not include everyone in their life dynamics and evolution. Hence, today, our work as JRS on serving and accompanying is needed more than ever; together we can shape cities that leave no one behind.
Based on this mission, we shall continue developing ways to improve the lives of people by providing them with all the necessary support in their day-to-day reality to help them increase resilience and trust in themselves.  
At JRS Europe, we launched and presented to our JRS colleagues our new campaign ‘’The Power of Vote” aimed at raising awareness for refugees’ and migrants’ rights in view of the upcoming European Parliament Elections. We have one important power: our vote. In May, we at JRS invite all the citizens in Europe to use this power and vote while keeping in mind the rights of people in need. Our vote is a choice. It can build not only inclusive cities but even more an inclusive Europe, where people find protection, dignity, liberty and equality.