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Holy See: migrants are not just numbers

During the 113th session of Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, the Representation of the Holy See urges the International Community to address the root causes of migration, and to see migration not only as a challenge, but also as an opportunity.

By Lisa Zengarini

“Without ignoring the political and legal aspects of irregular migration, we must never lose sight of the human face of migration and the fact that, beyond the geographical divisions of borders, we are part of a single human family”.

The Holy See reiterated this point on Friday during the 113th Session of the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Migrants are more than numbers or part of a quota to meet each year

Addressing the session, the Vatican Observer to the United Nations and Other International Organizations, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, decried the fact that migrants are increasingly being used “as pawns on a chessboard, victims of political rivalries”.

Echoing Pope Francis, he reminded IOM Member States that migrants “are more than numbers or part of a quota to meet each year”. In this regard he invited the Council to reflect on the very language frequently used in political and policy debates about migration such as “burden-sharing”, “redistribution” and “reallocation, remarking that these expressions are “inherently reductive”.

Need to address the root causes of migration 

Again, he reiterated the urgent need to address the root causes of migration and forced displacement which, he said, “call into question our achievements as a human family, including in the area of social justice”.

While States are obligated to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people on the move, he insisted that “it is also crucial that the international community help create conditions which allow communities and individuals to live in safety and dignity in their Countries of origin”, consistent with the 2018 UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The Vatican Observer further highlighted the need to reform the current approach to managing mixed flows at international borders and at sea, failing which, he warned the “current chaos that results in countless acts of violence, abuse and increasing loss of life, particularly in the Mediterranean, will only get worse”.

Migration is also an opportunity

Archbishop Nwachukwu, finally invited States to see migration, not only as a “challenge” but also as an “opportunity to build peace”. In this regard, he stressed once again the importance of integration, “in a spirit of mutual knowledge and reciprocal openness and respect”. This includes the laws and traditions of the host countries, which should always “encourage a culture of encounter and solidarity”.

Climate-related migration

In a previous statement delivered during the IOM session earlier this week, Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, Undersecretary for the Multilateral Sector at the Section on Relations with States of the Holy See, addressed the issue of “The intersection between climate change, food security, migration and displacement”.

In her address the Vatican representative pointed to the need to recognize climate-related migration as a form of adaptation to climate change and, therefore, "to increase the availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration”.

She recalled that last year alone, climate induced disasters led to the internal displacement of 23.7 million people and  that  without early and concerted climate and development action, over 216 million people could become internal climate migrants by 2050.

The statement also insisted that the migration debate is not only about migrants. “Rather, as Pope Francis reminds us, it is about the present and future of the human family”.

02 December 2022, 14:26