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An Afghani migrant stands as he tries to confirm his, and his group's, will to apply for intrnational protection in Poland An Afghani migrant stands as he tries to confirm his, and his group's, will to apply for intrnational protection in Poland  (AFP or licensors)

Pope: Lack of respect shown at our borders makes us all less human

Pope Francis sends a message on the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the International Organisation for Migration, and warns that behind every statistic on migration is the face of a brother or sister that needs to be protected.

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis describes the treatment of thousands of migrants around the world today as "deplorable". In his video message on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Pope says migrants across the world are treated as "merchandise", "pawns on the chessboard", and as being "victims of political rivalries".

IOM

The IOM, which is based in Geneva, is the main intergovernmental organisation in the field of migration. The Holy See has been a member of the organisation for ten years. In his message to the IOM, which was read by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pope asks, "How can suffering and despair be exploited to advance or defend political agendas? How can political considerations prevail when the dignity of the human person is at stake?" 

"The fundamental lack of human respect across national borders diminishes us all in our 'humanity'", says the Pope.

The Pope's message comes just one day after his remarks at the Sunday Angelus, in which he denounced the treatment of migrants around the globe, expressing sorrow for those who recently died crossing the English Channel, those stranded on the border with Belarus, and those lost in the waters of the Mediterranean. It also comes shortly before his trip to the Greek island of Lesvos.

A change of perspective

In his message, Pope Francis urges a change of perspective of the migration phenomenon, noting that "it is not only a story of migrants but of inequalities, despair, environmental degradation, climate change; but also of dreams, courage, study abroad, family reunification, new opportunities, security, and hard but dignified work".

"The debate on migration is not really about migrants," the Pope explains. "It is rather about all of us, about the past, the present, and the future of our societies. We should not be surprised by the number of migrants, but meet them all as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their unique personal and family situations. This response requires a lot of human sensitivity, justice, and fraternity".

The "common temptation" of today is to "dismiss all that is troublesome", says the Pope. This should be avoided, it is a symptom of the "throwaway culture", he adds. "Surely", he says, "these universally recognised values should guide our treatment of migrants in the local community and nationally".

Benefits of migration

Pope Francis goes on to urge us to not only look at what states do to welcome migrants, but also at "what benefits migrants bring to their host communities and how they enrich them".

On the one hand, in the markets of upper-middle-income countries, migrant labour is in great demand and welcomed as a way to compensate for labour shortages. On the other hand, migrants are often rejected and resented by many of their host communities.

Unfortunately, the Pope notes that "this double standard stems from the predominance of economic interests over the needs and dignity of the human person". This is a tendency that was exacerbated during the "closures" for Covid-19, "when many of the 'essential' workers were migrants, but did not get the benefits of Covid's financial assistance programmes or access to basic health care or Covid vaccinations".

A dignified way out

In light of these daily dramas, there is an "urgent need to find dignified ways out of irregular situations".

Desperation and hope always prevail over restrictive policies. The more legal routes there are, the less likely it is that migrants will be drawn into the criminal networks of people traffickers or exploited and abused during their migration, says the Pope.

Migrants, the Pope goes on to remark, "make visible the bond that unites the entire human family, the richness of cultures and the resource for developing the exchanges and trade networks that make up the diaspora communities".

To the international community

Hence the call on the international community to "urgently address the conditions that give rise to irregular migration, thus making migration a conscious choice rather than a desperate necessity".

Most people who can live decently in their countries of origin would not feel compelled to migrate irregularly, said the Pope. Urgent efforts are needed to create better economic and social conditions so that migration is not the only option for those seeking peace, justice, security, and full respect for human dignity.

"Let us not forget", the Pope concludes, "that these are not statistics, but real people whose lives are at stake". With this awareness, "the Catholic Church and its institutions will continue its mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating people on the move".

29 November 2021, 15:15