Over the next few weeks, as we continue to Share the Journeywith our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, the Vatican office on Migrants and Refugees, consulting with various Bishops’ Conferences and Catholic NGOs, has prepared Twenty Action Pointson migrants and refugees. The Twenty Points are grounded on migrants’ and refugees’ needs identified at the grassroots level and on the Church’s best practices. The Points have been approved by the Holy Father. This week, we will introduce the first three of theTwenty Points.
Continuing to Share the Journey
Global migration is a major challenge for much of today’s world and a priority for the Catholic Church. In words and deeds, Pope Francis repeatedly shows his deep compassion for all who are displaced. Witness his encounters with migrants and refugees on the Islands of Lampedusa and Lesbos. Witness his call for their full embrace: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.
In addition, the Holy Father is guiding the Church to assist the world community in systematically improving its responses to the displaced. The international political community has launched a multilateral process of consultation and negotiations with the goal of adopting two Global Compacts by the end of 2018, one on international migrants and the other on refugees. In doing so, Twenty Action Points have been formulated. The various Bishops’ Conferences are urged to promote the Points in their parishes and Church organizations with the hope of fostering more effective solidarity with migrants and refugees.
Though grounded in the Church’s experience and reflection, the Twenty Points are offered as valuable considerations to all people of good will who might be willing to implement them and advocate their inclusion in their country’s negotiations. Leaders and members of all faiths, and organizations of civil society, are welcome to join in this effort.
Welcoming: Increasing Safe and Legal Routes for Migrants and Refugees
The decision to emigrate should be made freely and voluntarily. Migration should be an orderly process which respects the laws of each country involved. To this end, the following points are to be considered:
- The collective or arbitrary expulsion of migrants and refugees should be avoided. The principles of non-refoulement should always be respected: migrants and refugees must never be returned to a country which has been deemed unsafe. The application of this principle should be based on the level of safety effectively afforded to each individual, rather than on a summary evaluation of a country’s general state of security. The routine application of a list of “safe countries” often fails to consider the real security needs of particular refugees; they must be treated on an individual basis.
- Legal routes for safe and voluntary migration or relocation should be multiplied. This can be achieved by granting more humanitarian visas, visas for students and apprentices, family reunification visas (including siblings, grandparents and grandchildren), and temporary visas for people feeling conflict in neighboring countries; by creating humanitarian corridors for the most vulnerable; and by launching private and community sponsorship programs, programs for relocating refugees in communities rather than concentrating them in holding facilities
3. The value of each person’s safety – rooted in a profound respect the the inalienable rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees – should be correctly balanced with national security concerns. This can be achieved through appropriate training for border agents; by ensuring that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have access to basic services, including legal services; by ensuring protection for anyone fleeing war and violence; and by seeking alternative solutions to detention for those who entere a coutnry without authorization.
Protecting: Defending the Rights and Dignity of Migrants and Refugees
The Church has repeatedly underlined the need for an integral approach to the issue of migration, in profound respect for each person’s dignity and rights and in consideration of the multiple dimensions of each individual. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights, and cannot depend on a person’s legal status. To this end, the following points are suggested:
4. Emigrants must be protected by their countries of origin, authorities in these countries should offer reliable information before departure; should ensure that all channels of emigration are legalized and certified should create a government department for the diaspora; and should offer consular assistance and protection abroad.
- Immigrants must be protected by their countries of arrival, in order to prevent exploitation, forced labor and human trafficking. This can be achieved by prohibiting employers from withholding employees’ documents; by ensuring access to justice for all migrants, independently of their legal status and without negative repercussions on their right to remain; by ensuring that all immigrants can open a person bank account; by establishing a minimum wage applicable to all workers; and by ensuring that wages are paid at least once a month.
- Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees must be empowered to leverage their skills and competencies in order to improve their own wellbeing and the prosperity of their communities. This can be achieved by guaranteeing in-country freedom of movement and permission to return after work abroad; by providing ample access to the means of communications; by involving local communities in the integration of asylum seekers; and by developing programs of professional and social reintegration for anyone who chooses to return to their home country.
7. The vulnerability of unaccompanied minor and minors separated from their families must be tackled in accordance with the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. This can be achieved by seeking alternative solutions to detention for legally underage migrants who enter a country without authorization; by offering temporary custody or foster homes for unaccompanied or separated minor; and by setting up centers for the identification and processing of minors, adults and families.
- All underage migrants must be protected in accordance with the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. This can be achieved through the compulsory registration of all births and by ensuring that underage migrants do not become irregular when they reach adulthood and that they can continue their education.
- Access to education should be assured to all underage migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, so that they have access to primary and secondary schooling at the same standard as citizens and independently of their legal status.
- Access to welfare should be assured to all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, respoting their right to health and basic healthcare independently of legal status, and ensuring access to national pension schemes and the transferability of benefits in case of moving to another country,
- Migrants should never become a-national or stateless, in accordance to the right to nationality stated by international conventions, and citizen ship should be recognized at birth.
- Protecting: Defending the Rights and Dignity of Migrants and RefugeesThe Church has repeatedly emphasized the need to promote integral human development for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees alongside local residents. Countries should include migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in their plan for national development. To this end, the following points are to be considered:
- The competencies of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees should be valued and developed in countries of arrival by guaranteeing equal access to higher education, specialization courses, apprenticeships and internships, and by validating qualifications obtained elsewhere.
- the social and professional inclusion of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees within local communities should be supported by recognizing their freedom of movement and their right to choose where to live; by making information available in their languages of origin; by offering language classes and course on local customs and culture; and by granting asylum seekers and refugees the right to work.
- The integrity and well-being of the family should always be protected and promoted, independently of legal status. This can be achieved by embracing broader family reunification (grandparents, grandchildren and siblings) independently of financial requirements; by allowing reunified family members to work; by undertaking the search for lost family members; by combating the exploitation of minors; and by ensuring, that, if employed, their work does not adversely affect their health or their right to education.
- 15. Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with special needs are to be treated just like citizens with the same conditions, guaranteeing access to disability benefits independently of legal status, and enrolling unaccompanied or separated minors with disabilities in special education programs.
- The funds for international development and humanitarian support, sent to countries which received a significant influx of refugees and migrants fleeing from armed conflict, should be increased, ensure that the needs of both newcomer and resident populations can be met. This can be achieved by funding the establishment and development of institutions for medical, educational and social care in countries of arrival, and by extending financial help and assistance programs to local families in situations of vulnerability.
- The right to religious freedom – terms of both belief and practice – should be assured to all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees independently of legal status.
Integrating: Greater Participation of Migrants and Refugees to Enrich Local Community
The arrival of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees represents an opportunity for growth as much for local communities as for the newcomers. The encounter of different cultures is a source of mutual enrichment, since inclusion and participation contribute to the development of societies. To this end the following points are to be implemented:
18. Integration as a two-directional process which acknowledges and values the riches of both cultures, should be promoted. This can be achieved by recognizing the citizenship at birth; by rapidly extending nationality to all refugees, independently of financial requirements or linguistic knowledge (at least for over -50s); by promoting family reunification; and by declaring a one-off period of amnesty and legalization for migrants who have lived in a country for a considerable amount of time.
19. A positive narrative os solidarity towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees should be promoted. This can be achieved by funding intercultural exchange projects; by supporting integration programs in local communities; by documenting and disseminating good practices in integration; and by ensuring that public announcements are translated into the languages spoken by larger numbers of igtants, asylum seekers and refugees.
20. Those who are forced to flee humanitarian crises and are subsequently evacuated or enrolled in assisted repatriation programs must be ensured appropriate conditions for reintegration in their countries of origin. This can be achieved by increasing the funds assigned to temporary assistance for those affected by humanitarian crises and by developing infrastructure in countries of return, by validating educational and professional qualifications obtained abroad, and by encouraging the rapid reintegration of workers in their countries of origin.
~ Migrants and Refugees Section, Integral Human Development, Vatican City