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Center for Human Rights and International Justice

Forced Migrants

Documentation, Program Development and Networking with the Jesuit Refugee Service, led by Professor David Hollenbach SJ and Professor Maryanne Loughry RSM

Urban Refugees

"The iconic image of refugees is row upon row of white tents in a sprawling emergency camp. But the reality is that only one-third of the world's 10.5 million refugees now live in camps. Like 3.3 billion other people on Earth, they have been steadily moving to cities and towns, a trend that has accelerated since the 1950s."  -UNHCR 2012

The reality of refugees now living in urban settings has presented many challenges refugee agencies in recent years. Jesuit Refugee Service has traditionally had most of its programs based in refugee camps. However, in the 1990s JRS did begin to develop a few urban refugee programs in cities like Kampala and Johannesburg. Today many of Jesuit Refugee Service’s programs are in large cities: Rome, Nairobi, Amman, Bangkok to name a few.

JRS Logo

Boston College is working with Jesuit Refugee Service as JRS develops guiding principles for meeting the challenges faced by urban refugees. The Center for Human Rights and International Justice in conjunction with the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) is documenting and evaluating JRS’s Livelihood Program in Johannesburg. BC has also compiled a comprehensive bibliography of relevant literature on urban refugees. In the future the project will provide deeper reflection on the social and ethical issues confronting refugee agencies as they develop best practices for responding to the needs of urban refugees.

The Center's work in this area is led by Center Research Professor Maryanne Loughry, who also serves as Associate Professor of JRS Australia, and Graduate School of Social Work Professor Tom Crea, who is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Center.

An inital assessment by the Center of JRS' Livelihoods program in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa led to a program restructuring in May 2012.  A study of previous program beneficiaries, conducted between January and November 2013, identified significant environmental barriers to refugees’ attempts to build livelihoods, including community violence, crowding, harassment from landlords, and exploitation from officials and police. Efforts to build businesses were found to be hampered by an oversaturated market and significant distances from places of residence. Recommendations for service delivery now include assessing refugees’ level of vulnerability and providing a more comprehensive and flexible package of supports.

The next phase of this project is designed to provide a follow-up for refugees who received assistance after the program was restructured in May 2012. Professors Crea and Loughry are particularly interested in whether refugees are better able to generate and sustain income, and whether these efforts have any relationship with their quality of life. All baseline data have been collected and stored in the newly developed database, to be compared with follow-up data to be collected in this project. The results of this study will fill an important gap in an understanding of best practices for this population in South Africa and beyond.

Initiative on reconciliation in the work of JRS


June 2013 workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia
June 2013 workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia

In June 2013, the Center and JRS held a workshop on the topic of reconciliation at JRS’ facilities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, led by Center Research Professor Maryanne Loughry and Center Affiliated Faculty Member and Professor of Theology Stephen Pope. JRS staff from around the world met over five days with a select group of theologians on multiple faiths, from Boston College and elsewhere, with expertise on reconciliation. JRS staff shared their experiences working in reconciled and unreconciled populations affected by conflicts, such as in Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria.  From the theologians, they learned more about reconciliation from Christian, Buddhist and Islamic perspectives to better integrate reconciliation into their work throughout the world.  Read more about the reconciliation workshop on the JRS website here.

   Stemming from this workshop, JRS has developed a resource booklet on reconciliation, with Boston College collaboration, entitled “Recreating Right Relationships: Deepening the Mission of Reconciliation in the Work of JRS”.  It is based on the stories and reflections shared in the workshop and will be used to help build JRS staff’s capacity in this area.

Read the publication “Recreating Right Relationships: Deepening the Mission of Reconciliation in the Work of JRS.”

Theological reflection on JRS' values


October 2011 consultation at Boston College
October 2011 consultation at Boston College

    In October 2011, international staff from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) as well as university theologians and ethicists from several continents met at Boston College for “A Consultation on the Theological, Spiritual and Ethical Bases of the Work of Jesuit Refugee Service”.   This consultation, in which JRS staff members shared stories of the refugees they work with in the field, and the theologians in turn offered theological reflections on the stories' significance, became the basis for an ongoing series posted on JRS' website, entitled "Theology, spirituality and ethics, a basis of the JRS mission".

    This series, available on the JRS website here, took the form of being reflections of JRS' seven stated values in practice: compassion, hope, dignity, solidarity, hospitality, justice, and participation. 

    See the publication "Jesuit Refugee Service: Our Values", available in the Resources section of the Center's website, which captures many of these reflections.  The publication will be of use to JRS staff to deepen their own understanding of JRS' values in their work, and also for the greater public to better understand JRS' mission and how it is fulfilled.


To view publications that have been produced as part of the Center's partnership with JRS, see this link to our Resources section.