Mobilizing to help Ukraine

March 4, 2022 in Featured News, News

The Jesuit Refugee Service and the Society of Jesus in Ireland and around the world are mobilizing resources worldwide to provide immediate support in Ukraine and in neighboring countries.

JRS Ireland staff are in close contact with their counterparts in Europe, especially in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland. They have now produced a coordinated response to assess and respond to the needs of refugees fleeing Ukraine based on a sustained Needs Assessment. JRS aims to elaborate a coordinated humanitarian response as a ‘One’ proposal, suggesting that donors do not earmark their funds or fund a specific activity or location, but rather contribute to the ‘One’ response of JRS ».

The Assessment offers an overview of the immediate response to the Ukraine crisis in a timeline of 3-6 months, starting from 25 February 2022, for the reception and accompaniment of the refugee population by JRS national offices in the countries bordering Ukraine and of IDPs within Ukraine by the local Jesuit community. 

On Wednesday 16 March Belvedere College will celebrate St. Francis Xavier Day and the focus of the day will be one of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The school is liaising with JRS Ireland in order to respond with help in the most appropriate way to this humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, past pupils of Belvedere College SJ in Dublin arranged for the collection and transport of goods from Ireland to Poland Saturday 5 March 2022. They secured Old Belvedere Rugby club as a drop-off point for goods they are told the refugees will need because of this humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.

Nine trucks have gone over and Damian Czerniak SJ from JRS is helping with the logistics and dispersal. of the goods. The front line NGOs are working together to get all aid to where it is most needed.

Organisers John Treacy, Liam Boggan, Dave McGrath, and Mark Foran say they hoping to mobilise another collection in ten days’ time but they want to see how the first drop-off works out and monitor where the war zone is moving. They say they are aware that there is a fresh lean towards donating money in the event of goods not being needed or becoming impossible to distribute.

Meanwhile, JRS Europe says it welcomes efforts by the EU and its Member States, in particular those neighboring Ukraine, to keep borders open and welcome those forced to flee. They have called on the EU to respond with unity and in solidarity in the short and long term.

Praying and Staying Close

In Ukraine: helping those fleeing, supporting the internally displaced

In Lviv, where JRS is present, the security situation is still relatively calm. Many people are arriving from other parts of Ukraine. The majority of them intends to reach the Polish border and often needs support or a place to spend the night on their way there. JRS refugee house, with a capacity of about 20 people, is currently been used to that end. Also the retreat house of the Jesuits has been immediately converted into a transit house for displaced people.

In Romania: JRS on the first line

Between the 24th and 28th of February, 70,000 people have transited from Ukraine into Romania. About 30,000 of them quickly left for other EU countries, while about 28,000 chose to remain. Only a small minority officially applied for asylum for the moment, so most of them are legally migrant and not entitled to reception as asylum seekers. Both the Romanian authorities and citizens are showing great enthusiasm to welcome people, however, coordination is still needed in the different responses.

JRS Romania is providing support both in the centers for asylum seekers along the borders and to the people who are not in the centers, by providing welcome packages, acting as a mediator between private donors, government organizations and the people in need, supporting people to reach airports and train stations, providing accommodation in JRS’s own shelter and looking for more accommodation for people in need.

In Poland and Hungary: creating and supporting a welcoming infrastructure

Poland is for the moment the country receiving the most arrivals of people from Ukraine. Many are staying with family and friends as well as travelling forward to other EU countries. JRS is mobilizing to facilitate transportation for people from the borders as well as providing basic supplies and supporting people finding provisional accommodation through rental assistance. Additional support in the form of legal, administrative as well as psychological assistance is being organized.

Hungary is receiving smaller numbers of people for the moment, including Hungarians who were living across the border in Ukraine. The government has expressed the will to support the refugees and the Hungarian population is reacting in a very welcoming way. JRS has a small presence in the country and at this moment is assessing how to best be of use. Hungary is traditionally a transit country for refugees, however in this case, should the conflict continue, it is likely that many Ukrainians will want to remain. JRS is therefore already looking into medium-term support needs, such as longer term accommodation support, next to the more immediate needs such as food and healthcare supplies.

In South-East Europe: preparing from the ‘second line’

Bearing in mind the experience of the Crimean crisis in 2014, JRS in South-East Europe (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North-Macedonia) is also preparing to receive some Ukrainians refugees should the conflict persist. Contingency planning is prepared, including the search for potential accommodation within families, parishes and Jesuit houses. Relevant contacts with government authorities and municipalities, such as the city of Zagreb in Croatia, are being established in order to be ready with response based on hospitality in case of need.

At the EU level: advocating for a welcoming response

At the regional level JRS Europe is monitoring the developments in the region as a whole and the EU’s response in particular.

We welcome the initial positive response of the EU Member States, determined to react as a Union and provide protection to people feel Ukraine and we strongly support the proposal of activating the procedure to provide temporary protection in cases of max influx of refugees as foreseen by the Temporary Protection Directive.

We wish to stress that all people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine should be allowed to leave the country, irrespective of their nationality. Once in safety, and within adequate reception conditions, the protection needs of third country nationals that are not Ukrainians can be assessed according to the existing procedures and the repatriation of those who wish to return to their home-countries can and should be facilitated.

Next to the immediate response, EU Member States need to quickly discuss and agree on a responsibility-sharing scheme, including clear relocation measures, to ensure that the workload of Ukraine’s neighboring countries remains under control and that EU standards of protection and reception conditions can be guaranteed. Finally, the protection needs of Ukrainians who were already outside the country when the conflict started must also be recognized.