Migrants and Refugees: Pope Francis’ proposals
A set of good practices to address the migration phenomenon in clear, pragmatic terms based on the assumption that solutions can be found with good will. The content of the Message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which will be celebrated on January 14 in churches worldwide is rich in specific proposals and guidelines. We discussed it with Father Fabio Baggio C.S, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Pope had already explained the meaning of these four verbs. Which new elements are enshrined in the Message?
The Message provides practical guidelines for the implementation of these verbs in the present circumstances. It refers to a set of 20 actions and proposals that derive from the good practices of the Catholic Church in various domains. Such practices include expanding legal, safe channels for all migrants through the issuing of humanitarian visas, resettlement to third countries, sponsorship programs, humanitarian corridors, or student visas for young refugees living in refugee camps. As an example, family reunification is suggested as a channel for people to migrate in a safe and legal manner, and as a way to better integrate. It is something that the Church has always upheld.
In particular, the Message contains a strong appeal to the Church to disseminate these best practices worldwide with the direct involvement of Bishops’ Conferences and Catholic organisations, by raising awareness on the two Global Compacts due to be signed by the international community in the second semester of 2018: one on international migrants and the other on refugees. The 20 action points are based on the Social Doctrine of the Church, and offer good practices indicating solutions to present problems.
What does the verb “to protect” imply in its reference to migrants?
The Pope mentions the importance of protecting migrants from the moment of departure to their arrival in the country of destination, but also during transit and in their decision to return. We would like to see that they are given all the necessary information that will enable them to decide whether or not to leave their home countries, when, and with which means. Once they reach the country of destination, they should have access to basic rights such as education or health. They should be given the necessary information to obtain a legal status to remain, or to regularise that status.
And the verb “to promote”?
It encompasses the recognition of the skills and capacities of migrants. This needs to become a reality, for example through the validation of certificates of studies and skills, so they may offer their best and further complete their education, whether at secondary or university level. Their professional qualifications must be recognised so that they may become a contribution for the development of the host countries.
Furthermore, it is necessary to provide an easily accessible nationalization path to migrants and refugees who have been living for a long time in the host country. Easy solutions should be found for undocumented migrants who have been living in host countries for 20 or 30 years, through special regularization programs – already envisaged in certain countries.
The jus sanguinis (nationality by blood) and jus soli (nationality by soil) can coexist, as it happens in several countries. In my opinion, rather than focusing on the “right” to a nationality, it would be better to underline the “choice” of a nationality, since belonging to a given nation is essentially a personal and responsible choice beyond any juridical attribution. And this is especially true for migrants. This choice of a nationality entails a set of duties and responsibilities that translate into the participation in the growth and the development of the country in which a migrant has decided to live. Being a citizen is not just holding a passport, but it is taking up a serious commitment with a territory.
But there are people who are afraid of losing their identity or feel they are being invaded…
From an historical perspective, the fear of foreign invasion has often been capitalized by nationalist regimes. On the opposite, the peaceful encounter of people has highly contributed to the birth of great civilizations. Fear is a normal feeling when we don’t know who are those knocking at our doors. It mainly depends on prejudices and perception. However such feeling deserve attention because it is used to determine the choice of closing or opening the door. To overcome the fear it is necessary to invest in awareness, providing factual data and information about migrants and refugees and promoting the culture of the encounter.
Moving to the encounter of the other, the different, the foreigner is not easy. Children are more prompt to it, while adults are often reluctant because they fear that something could be lost in such encounter. But it exactly the opposite: every encounter is an opportunity of personal enrichment and reaffirmation of our own identity.
Fr Fabio Baggio C.S
Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees section, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
based on an interview by Patrizia Caiffa, AgenSIR