In a message linked with the launch of the 104th World day of Migrants and Refugees (to be held on 14 January 2018), Pope Francis has recalled his visit to Lampedusa on 8 July 2013 and his desire for the Church to show its concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking.
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
He spoke of the “great responsibility” to show solidarity with “every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future” and the need for believers to join together with “men and women of good will … to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities”.
“In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that ‘our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate’”
The Vatican’s Section on Migrants & Refugees (Dicastery for promoting Integral Human Development) has now published Responding to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points around those verbs that will be fed into the drafting of a 2018 global compact.
- To Welcome: Enhancing Safe and Legal Channels for Migrants and Refugees
- To Protect: Ensuring Migrants’ and Refugees’ Rights and Dignity
- To Promote: Advancing Migrants’ and Refugees’ Integral Human Development
- To Integrate: Enriching Communities through Wider Participation of Migrants and Refugees
The action points are quite detailed and presented over the eight page booklet, and nearly all exhort change through the use of the phrase “encourage states” at their start. For example, point 6:
6. Encourage States to adopt national policies which enable migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees to make the best use of their skills and capacities, in order to better contribute to their own and their communities’ well-being. For example:
a. Grant refugees and asylum seekers freedom of movement and provide work permits as well as travel documents which allow for their return to the host State, particularly for those that find employment in other States.
b. Adopt programs engaging local communities in hosting small groups of asylum seekers in addition to larger reception and identification centers.
c. Enact legislation which allows asylum seekers, refugees and migrants the ability to open bank accounts, establish enterprises, and conduct financial transactions.
d. Enact national policies which allow migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to access and use telecommunications, such as internet or sim cards for mobile telephones, without burdensome procedures or fees.
e. Enact national policies which allow repatriated and returning migrants and refugees to have swift access to employment opportunities in their countries of origin, thus encouraging their reintegration into society.
In his message, Pope Francis considered how countries welcome migrants and refugees and called for “a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families”.
“At the same time, I hope 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. Once again, I want to emphasise the importance of offering migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation.”
Even amidst the current crisis, experience teaches that effective, shared responses are available. The Church looks forward to working together with the international community to promote and adopt such measures to protect the dignity, rights and freedoms of all persons currently on the move, including forced migrants, victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons.