International: G20 summit, an opportunity for world leaders to put refugee hospitality at the heart of globalisation
18 June 2012

Refugees have so much to give to their host societies if only they are helped to do so, El Nula, Venezuela (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
In the midst of economic crisis, the fragile value of hospitality ought to be nurtured.
World Refugee Day press release

Putting refugees at the centre of economic policy making

Rome, 18 June 2012 – Over the next two days, the leaders of the G20 nations will make difficult decisions regarding the stability of the global economy. In commemoration of World Refugee Day, 20 June, the Jesuit Refugee Service urges world leaders to place social cohesion at the core of their decision-making process, and not lose sight of the needs of more than 45 million forcibly-displaced migrants worldwide.

Keeping the humanitarian needs of refugees at the centre of policy is never more important than in times of economic turmoil. The economic recession threatens essential international aid to forcibly-displaced persons. Likewise, refugees struggle even more to make ends meet. Tragically, further displacement of impoverished populations is likely to occur, as hard times result in the increased marginalisation of oppressed minorities.

"Forced migrants are concrete examples of what happens to societies pushed beyond the limit: conflict, human rights violations, displacement. The G20 summit is an opportunity to take preventative action, to reduce economic instability by promoting holistic refugee protection, enhancing livelihood opportunities for marginalised communities and strengthening inclusive social protection systems", said JRS International Director, Peter Balleis SJ.

In the midst of economic crisis, the fragile value of hospitality ought to be nurtured. Shrinking economic opportunities are placing greater burden on overstretched social support networks, fuelling intolerance. A clear example is the success of political populism that places xenophobic rhetoric at the centre of everyday public discourse. Instead of describing refugees as courageous survivors rebuilding their lives in safety, politicians turn to simplistic and misleading labels, which demonise refugees for societal ills. This constant dehumanisation and hostility marginalises refugees even further.

"The populations of host countries generally have little contact with refugees and other forced migrants. Their opinions are largely shaped by political and civil society leaders. If governments took a more positive approach to forced migration, it's likely we would see the beginning of a reversal of the current levels of hostility and exclusion of refugees", added Fr Balleis.

Despite the current trend, people across the world individually and collectively respond to the needs of refugees. For instance, owing to the French government's inability to house asylum seekers, JRS volunteers in Paris have stepped in and opened up their homes. Besides offering a necessary service, friendships are formed and a powerful message is being sent to society: strangers are welcome.

Similar acts occur in Jordan where local residents and Iraqi refugees are helping displaced Syrians. Analogous examples of grassroots hospitality can be found in Congo, Kenya, Venezuela and many other countries. Time and again we see refugee and host communities offer protection, housing, food, medicine, and most importantly, friendship. These simple acts have the power to transform difficult situations.

"Our message is simple; encourage hospitality and cooperation. Hospitality is a door that opens the way to other possibilities, such as access to rights and services. Refugees have human resources, skills and energy. It's important to let them do something for their new communities. Governments would do well to follow these examples of solidarity, rather than seek short-term solutions, creating further problems for the future", concluded Fr Balleis.

Notes to the editor:
JRS works in more than 50 countries around the world. The organisation employs over 1,200 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of approximately  700,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Its services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

For further information contact
James Stapleton,
Communications Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service (International Office)
Tel: +39 06 69868 468; +39 346234 3841;
Email: international.communications@jrs.net; www.jrs.net

For further information on hospitality and refugees, see the latest JRS campaign to bring refugees out of obscurity, http://www.jrs.net/campaigns






Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
international.communications@jrs.net
+39 06 69 868 468