Our mission

JRS International director Fr. Peter Balleis sj (right) listens to Maltese Jesuit and former regional driector of JRS Grand Lacs Fr. Tony Calleja sj, in Burundi (Photograph: Dan Doll sj)

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS undertakes services at national and regional levels with the support of an international office in Rome. Founded in November 1980 as a work of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), JRS works  in 50 countries, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and to those held in detention centres. The main areas of work are in the field of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. At the end of 2012, more than 600,000 individuals were direct beneficiaries of JRS projects.

More than 1,400 workers contribute to the work of JRS, the many of whom work on a voluntary basis, 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 programmes as teachers, health workers and others.

JRS began its work in Malta in 1993. In the previous months, several hundred asylum seekers had arrived in Malta mainly from Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. With no national structures in place, the tiny office set out to address some of the pressing needs with the help of friends and volunteers.

Initially, JRS Malta worked mostly with asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in the community, providing legal assistance, pastoral care, psycho-social and material support. "We believed we should pay attention to refugees as people, and were among the first to raise the awareness of the Maltese public to the presence of refugees." Written by Fr Joseph Cassar, the first director of JRS Malta, these words underline the spirit of our work as it is shaped by the needs of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Malta.

From 2002, due to the rise in the number of asylum seekers in detention, which was a direct result of the increase in the number of undocumented migrants arriving in Malta by boat from Libya, JRS Malta directed its activities and services towards this category of migrants, given the difficulties they faced when seeking to access basic services.

In 2007, JRS Malta director and lawyer Dr Katrine Camilleri received the UNHCR Nansen Award, in acknowledgment of her exceptional dedication to the refugee cause and her outstanding contribution in protection and assistance to refugees.

Over the years, JRS Malta expanded its services to include legal advice and provision of information to asylum seekers in detention, advocacy, public awareness-raising, social work services, limited healthcare and psychological support, and spiritual care. Today it offers these services in detention or in the community as the case may be - to asylum seekers, beneficiaries of international protection and to forced migrants who cannot return to their country of origin - in response to the challenges presented by the new realities on the ground.

Jesuit Refugee Service Malta Foundation is registered with the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations (VO/0064).

To read our Charter click here

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