HIAS, the world’s oldest refugee nonprofit, announced the opening of a new European office in Belgium’s capital.
The office will support HIAS’ humanitarian work around the world, liaise with EU institutions and bring together the European Jewish community in support of refugees and asylum seekers.
“Jewish and faith-based activists across Europe are organizing their communities in support of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Ilan Cohn, Country Director, HIAS Europe. “With HIAS’ new presence in Brussels, we will help raise awareness of the issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers around the globe and create opportunities to help the most vulnerable among them.”
The office’s opening marks a new chapter in the organization’s 138-year-old history. In addition to Belgium, this month HIAS – founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – is announcing the opening of new offices in Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Aruba, as a direct response to the dramatic increase in refugees and asylum seekers requiring assistance in those countries. HIAS provides a range of services to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in 15 countries around the world each year, including legal aid, mental health services, economic inclusion programs, and interventions to prevent gender-based violence.
The HIAS Brussels team will work closely with other HIAS offices in the region. On the island of Lesvos, HIAS Greece attorneys have provided critical legal assistance to more than 400 asylum seekers and are setting new legal precedents for displaced people. In Austria, HIAS has worked for many years to help Jews and other minorities from Iran resettle in the United States where they can practice their religion freely.
“We are witnessing the largest refugee crisis in recorded history. There are now more than 70 million people around the world who have fled their homes due to persecution and violence,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS Senior Vice President for Public Affairs. “Our Jewish values, history and faith teach us to welcome the stranger and protect the refugee and we intend for HIAS Europe to be a strong voice for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution around the world.”