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HIAS Europe Office Opens in Brussels

HIAS, the Global Jewish Non-Profit that Protects Refugees, Expands European Presence 
New Brussels office will support continued development of Jewish humanitarian organization.

BRUSSELS – Today, 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 is announcing the opening of new offices in Mexico, Peru, Columbia 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.”

With a new footprint in Brussels, HIAS is coming full circle to work it began in Europe nearly a century ago. In the years following World War I, the agency joined forces with Jewish charitable organizations in Paris and Berlin to form the migration association HICEM, which effectively became HIAS’ international arm and rescued European Jews throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In the decades since, HIAS has responded to refugee crises throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and the successor states to the former Soviet Union by providing services to refugees and helping them resettle in countries where they can be safe and rebuild their lives.

The HIAS Brussels office will host its first event on Friday, September 27. The event will bring together Jewish communal leaders and feature remarks by Daniel Rozas, a microfinance expert whose family was resettled by HIAS after they fled Lithuania in 1986.

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HIAS is the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees—including women and children, and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities—whose lives are in danger for being who they are. Guided by our values and history, HIAS helps refugees rebuild their lives in safety and advocates to ensure that all displaced people are treated with dignity. More info at @HIASrefugees, Facebook and hias.org.

CONTACT:      

Bill Echikson, E+ Europe (in Brussels) 

bechikson@gmail.com; Mobile: +32 475669736

Sara Koenig, West End Strategy Team (in New York)

SKoenig@westendstrategy.com; Mobile: (917) 420-0303