07 Editorial - Concern for Migrants

posted Jun 14, 2018, 8:43 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 14, 2018, 8:44 AM ]
Concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty, may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate."

Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families. At the same time, it is hoped that a greater number of countries will adopt private and community sponsorship programmes, and open humanitarian corridors for particularly vulnerable refugees. Furthermore, special temporary visas should be granted to people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring countries. Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions; particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights. It is also important to offer migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation. "Greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success".

The second verb – protecting – may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practices. This must be ongoing, as far as possible, in the country of migration, guaranteeing them adequate consular assistance, the right to personally retain their identity documents at all times, fair access to justice, the possibility of opening a personal bank account, and a minimum income sufficient to live on. Migrants must be offered freedom of movement, work opportunities, and access to means of communication, out of respect for their dignity. For those who decide to return to their homeland, there is the need to develop social and professional reintegration programmes. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a universal legal basis for the protection of underage migrants, and must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education, and to enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies.

Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator. Among these, we must recognise the true value of the religious dimension, ensuring to all foreigners in any country the freedom of religious belief and practice. Many migrants and refugees have abilities which must be appropriately recognised and valued. Since "work, by its nature, is meant to unite peoples", I encourage a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees, guaranteeing for all – including those seeking asylum – the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship, together with sufficient information provided in their mother tongue. In the case of underage migrants, their involvement in labour must be regulated to prevent exploitation and risks to their normal growth and development.

The final verb – integrating – concerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees. Integration is not "an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their 'secret', to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects, and thus contribute to knowing each one better. This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings." This process can be accelerated by granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.

Pope Francis