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Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Grande river between Mexico and the US Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Grande river between Mexico and the US 

Holy See calls for shared responsibility to protect refugees and migrants

The Holy See's Permanent Mission to the United Nations calls for shared responsibility in protecting refugees and asylum seekers.

By Lisa Zengarini

As forced migration continues to grow dramatically across the world, more generous resettlement policies are needed, together with a “stronger commitment to responsibility sharing”, the Holy See has reiterated.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the number of forcibly displaced people fleeing from wars, violence, human rights violations, as well as natural disasters, has risen up to 82.4 million worldwide in 2020.

Not just numbers

In a statement addressed on Monday to the 81st Standing Committee of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, the Vatican Permanent Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva reminded that these people are not just numbers, but “fellow sisters and brothers”. This is why – it said - Countries should commit to a shared responsibility to ensure that “no one is left behind”, as Pope Francis has called for.

The need for a durable solution

The Vatican Permanent Mission said it is “regrettable” that the pandemic has “also become a crisis of protection as well as another cause of delay in the achievement of durable solutions”, reminding that the right to seek asylum is enshrined in the Refugee Convention of the Geneva and “ultimately acknowledges that we are one human family”.

Inadequate response to problems faced by refugees and asylum seekers 

It expressed particular concern that in certain circumstances, the pandemic “has challenged fundamental norms of refugee law, particularly the right to seek asylum and the cardinal principle of non-refoulement”. The statement noted that, as the pandemic continues, “the problems faced by refugees and asylum seekers remain without an adequate response”, while “struggles of host communities remain unanswered”. “Resettlement quotas have dropped“ and the “impacts on access to healthcare and education have been enormous, with refugees often excluded from access to these basic goods”, it pointed out. 

The need for stronger cooperation and solidarity 

The Vatican Permanent Mission therefore called for a stronger “cooperation and solidarity, with the aim to assist effectively those States hosting a large number of refugees”, also remarking that refugees and displaced persons “are not merely the objects of assistance”, but are “subjects of rights and duties” that can give positive contributions to the hosting countries.

Balance between States' public health concerns and the right to seek asylum

While acknowledging and respecting the exclusive right of States to manage their own borders, the Holy See finally reaffirms “that it is possible to balance public health concerns and the respect for the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum”.

08 July 2021, 15:48