Using a megaphone, a man leads a group of refugees in song during an activity sponsored by JRS in the Doro Refugee Camp in Maban, South Sudan.
Using a megaphone, a man leads a group of refugees in song during an activity sponsored by JRS in the Doro Refugee Camp in Maban, South Sudan. (Paul Jeffrey/Misean Cara)

For JRS, advocacy means ensuring that refugees receive legal and humane treatment. This involves supporting refugees in their efforts to claim and exercise their rights, and lobbying governments and institutions for better and just responses to refugees and situations of forced displacement. JRS advocacy is also aimed at enhancing the public perception of refugees, countering xenophobia and indifference, and promoting integration and social cohesion.

Our advocacy takes place on many levels. In the field, our staff frequently advocate on behalf of individual refugees who require help in protecting their rights and dignity, or to meet basic needs such as shelter and food. We are also present at the country level, where we support changes in legislation or policy when called for, especially in areas such as immigration detention, work, health, and education rights. We advocate for the integration of refugees into national life, and urge the ending of all forms of discrimination and xenophobia.

Furthermore, since refugees – as well as the political, social and economic issues that affect them­ cross national borders, JRS advocates at the regional level. Regional advocacy staff monitor regional developments, and assist national offices with policy positions and advocacy opportunities.

Finally, JRS advocates at the international level. Our offices in Rome, Geneva, and Brussels present the concerns of the JRS network to governments and international humanitarian institutions that can improve conditions for refugees and enhance international cooperation in sharing responsibility for protecting them. These offices bring the information that JRS has from our closeness to refugee to the attention of state and international institutional parties.

JRS collaborates with the Migrants & Refugees Section of the Vatican. Headed by Pope Francis, it helps the Church to accompany refugees, those who are forced to migrate or victims of human trafficking.

Protection messages during COVID-19

Already fleeing from war, violence, and emergency situations, the over 70 million refugees and displaced people around the world are likely to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic. As global relief efforts continue, JRS calls on policymakers and partners to take appropriate steps to guarantee the right to asylum for those in need of protection, to stop detention and deportation of asylum seekers, and to provide equal access to hygiene and health services.

We also support and disseminate appropriate information on refugee protection such as that shared by UNHCR through its ‘Key Protection Messages’ and  the Global Protection Cluster (GPC) through its webpage on ‘Protection and Covid-19’. Another reliable source of information and advice is from GP20.

Advocacy focus: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

JRS serves and accompanies IDPs through its programmes, and advocates at different levels for national laws and policies that protect displaced people’s rights and promotes durable solutions.

In 2019 there were 50.8 million internally displaced persons, forced to flee their homes but still remaining within their own countries. IDPs face challenges similar to those experienced by refugees who have had to flee their own countries: human rights violations, lack of access to food, shelter, education, and other basic needs and opportunities. While the national authorities bear primary responsibility for their protection, IDPs often struggle to access their rights and protection and are at risk of being unnoticed and forgotten.

IDPs are often the forgotten citizens of their own countries.

JRS believes that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have a right to emergency assistance and ongoing protection during their displacement, and the opportunity and support to rebuild their lives. Learn more about our work with IDPs and how we partner with the Migrants & Refugees Section of the Vatican and UN GP20 campaign.