Up Together!

Brussels, 16 February 2016 – JRS Belgium has launched a new hospitality project called Up Together which seeks to provide support to an extremely vulnerable and forgotten group of forced migrants.

Photo: Marie Peltier

Up Together brings locals, volunteers and social workers together to help so-called ‘non- returnable migrants’. These are people who have been released from administrative detention centers and put on street without any social rights or protection status and with an order to leave the territory. With no one to turn to, it is very common that such migrants end up homeless and destitute.

The Up Together network is a group of families, local communities and single persons that are able to host and to accompany such people. In collaboration with them, the person in migration will be able to develop a network of relationships and seek out opportunities that help to re-gain autonomy. It’s a case of being up together!

"These people who have gone through so much and feel completely rejected and alone, then have the chance to live and learn in a friendly and supportive environment," says Barbara Mertens of JRS Belgium. "It means so much to them. And at the same time those who offer their help and support can learn a lot too about another’s culture and experiences," Mertens concludes.

Once hosted for 6 to 8 weeks in each home, the goal is to help the migrant to familiarize themselves with the Belgian way of life, how to speak the local language (mainly French in Brussels, but perhaps Flemish too!) and how to actually live within the country.

From the moment they enter the Up Together network, they also meet with a guidance counsellor once a week. With this counsellor they can talk about their situation, projects, stay with their host family and practical and organizational details when living in Belgium.

Up Together is a network of hospitality which also provides collaboration with professional social entities. It does not replace these kinds of services, but complements them. The person being accompanied still needs to see their social worker for all of the administrative steps that need to be taken and they also receive training to be able to make informed choices about their future.

Philippe Spegelaere is the project leader of Up Together
Email: philippe@jrsbelgium.org
Phone: +32 (0)472 52 93 64