Voices from the Middle East

Welcome to Voices.

Part of the mandate of JRS is to help give a voice to refugees. This section is dedicated to just that. Here you will find stories from refugees, their successes and the challenges they face rebuilding their lives.

World must open hearts, ears to Syria crisis
04 May 2016
(Washington, D.C.) May 4, 2016 – Fr. Cedric Prakash S.J. has witnessed a lifetime’s worth of suffering in only a few months of working in the Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa. Yet he remains an “incorrigible optimist” that conditions in the region — and the circumstances that created them — can and will improve.

Jordan: finding leadership and purpose in education
25 May 2015
Amman, 25 May 2015 – Ismail, a refugee from Sudan now living in Jordan, shares with us his story. Ismail writes that after enrolling in a Jesuit Refugee Service education program, he rediscovered hope. “I feel as if this opportunity has saved my life,” he says, “life has many opportunities in store.

Malta-Libya: no right to health
28 May 2015
Valletta, 28 May 2015 – The poor conditions in places of detention in Libya often lead to illness among the detainees, especially respiratory tract and skin infections. However the asylum seekers interviewed said healthcare was a luxury few, if any, were allowed. Sometimes lotion was given for scabies. However, in most cases, those who were ill, even seriously ill, were not treated. They said merely asking for medical care often met with taunts or punishment and some migrants were simply abandoned to die of their illness. Once again, their words are consistent with the findings of human rights organisations.

Malta-Libya: 'this is my country; I do what I like'
21 May 2015
Valletta, 21 May 2015 – The asylum seekers interviewed were not always certain who was imprisoning them, even if the guards wore military fatigues, as members of militia groups sometimes wear them too. However the common denominator of the treatment they received in all places of detention was the impunity with which their captors behaved. In a word, the guards could do exactly as they pleased – taunt, torture, rape, even kill – without being apparently accountable to anybody.

Malta: '300 people drinking from the same tap'
14 May 2015
Valletta, 14 May 2015 – Conditions in the places where the asylum seekers interviewed were imprisoned – regardless of who was running them – were uniformly poor. Some places were slightly better than others: the food was more plentiful, of better quality, and sometimes there were beds, when space allowed. However overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation, overheating, arbitrary access to fresh air, and a lack of food and of safe and palatable drinking water characterised the asylum seekers' stay in detention in Libya. Their claims are amply backed by the findings of human rights delegations that visited places of detention.

Malta: 'I was in prison...'
01 May 2015
Valletta, 1 May 2015 – From the moment they cross the border into Libyan territory, sub-Saharan Africans are in constant danger of being grabbed and placed in custody – by whom, is not always clear. Arrests are systematic at checkpoints controlled by militias at the entry to towns and villages and on the main thoroughfares.

Malta: easy prey
17 April 2015
Valletta, 17 April 2015 – The accounts given by the asylum seekers interviewed by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) were strikingly consistent in the details of their ordeal in Libya. The picture that emerged is one of foreigners who felt conspicuous and unsafe everywhere, even at home. They constantly feared that Libyan civilians might report them and that the armed forces or militias would arrest and imprison them for not having the right papers to be in the country. Bitter experience taught them not to trust anyone, be it their landlord, shopkeeper, taxi driver... They saw themselves – with solid justification – as totally deprived of their rights in Libya, and so constantly open to exploitation and abuse, without anyone to turn to for help or redress.

Jordan: sharing pain and success among different refugee communities
23 October 2014
Amman, 23 October 2014 – The city where I used to live is located in the middle of Syria. My neighbourhood was very close to an area that was loyal to the Syrian government, and in the long run that meant trouble for us. It was the summer of 2011; my schoolmates and I were ordinary students who were studying for exams and just looking forward to enjoying our summer vacation. It was about to be my last Syrian summer.

Jordan: finding safety for her children
05 June 2014
Irbid, 5 June 2014 – "I was in Zaatari for a year, but we're originally from Homs. I left because my kids were getting sick there. It's a dirty place that was getting dirtier and the drinking water wasn't clean. I left Syria to keep my children safe", said Maram.

Lebanon: devoted Syrian father places education above all else
10 October 2013
Beirut, 10 October 2013 – Throughout my time working for JRS in Kafar Zabad, I have encountered many inspiring and resilient families and children. People who have been able to place the needs of others ahead of their own. One such person was a Syrian father whose dedication towards his daughter touched me deeply. Notwithstanding his own struggle to get by, he put the education of his daughter, her future, first.

Italy: a message from Carol, Syrian refugee, to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Carol, a Syrian refugee, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).

Italy: a message from Adam, Sudanese refugee from Darfur, to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Adam, a Sudanese refugee from Darfur, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).

Turkey: providing hope for Afghans in Turkey
28 May 2013
Ankara, 28 May 2013 - Mena is waiting her turn at the distribution centre in Kirrikale, a satellite town to Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. Whilst she waits, she tells me her story with the help of a translator. “I left Afghanistan when I was 16. That was five years ago, after my father was killed by the fighting in our province.”

Turkey: Service is love, a volunteer’s perspective
22 March 2013
Annette Stacy is from the USA and volunteers with JRS Turkey. This is her reflection about her interactions with the refugees and asylum seekers.

Jordan: finding peace and home amidst chaos
25 February 2013
(Amman) February 25, 2013 – Giulia El Dardiry spent time with Jesuit Refugee Service Jordan in 2012, while working with Iraqi refugees for her PhD dissertation in Anthropology. She is a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She shares her experiences in Jordan with us in this reflection.

Syria: JRS centre offers a fresh start to Iraqis
28 May 2012
Aleppo, 28 May 2012 – After his daughter, Ghufran, was shot in the leg and his home and business attacked, Bassam Abdullah had reached his limit. Six days later he fled. In 2010, three years later, his wife and four children came across the JRS Deir Vartan Centre, a stroke of luck which changed his life.