By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis tirelessly urges all men and women of good will to embrace and welcome migrants and refugees. Repeatedly he has urged political leaders and policy-makers to safeguard the lives and the dignity of all those men, women and children who are forced to flee their countries in search of peace, safety and development.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees
On 14 January 2018 the Church observes the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and Pope Francis has released a message for the Day entitled "Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees". He will also celebrate the World Day at Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of groups of migrants and refugees.
Sovereign Order of Malta’s mission to rescue, care and assist migrants and refugees
One organization whose mission it is to care for people in need through its medical, social and humanitarian works is the Sovereign Order of Malta that is especially involved in rescuing and caring for forced migrants and refugees.
Speaking to Vatican News, the Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, said the Order is present on the journey of millions fleeing war, persecution and poverty with rescue teams in the Mediterranean, medical care and legal assistance programmes to help them integrate and build a future for themselves.
Boeselager said the “situation is and will remain challenging because the flow of migrants and the pressure coming from their countries of origin will remain for the next unforeseeable future”.
He said the first concern for his organization is that whoever is charged with legislating and implementing new policy must always bear in mind that migrants and refugees are human beings who enjoy the same rights as we do and must be treated with dignity and not be humiliated or exposed to threats and dangers.
Regarding plans and projects to assist and support migrants and refugees Boeselager said the Order will continue what it was doing in recent years: “saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea, helping migrants to be welcomed in European countries, helping them to be integrated, to be taught languages, to find jobs and to find their way in the European countries”.
“We will also expand our efforts to help in the countries of origin so that the people in these countries may find an alternative to migration” he said.
Aim to Increase Efforts on International Scene
Boeselager also expressed his wish to increase the Order’s efforts on the international scene “ in particular with multilateral organizations like the UN, to draw the attention to the fact that new means and new instruments must be found to deal with this phenomenon”.
He said the rights of refugees and asylum seekers found in International Conventions are good and must be safeguarded but he pointed out that they are not adequate to deal with the new phenomena of mass migration, mass expulsion and mass exodi, so new legal instruments have to be developed.
“It’s unacceptable that the average duration stay of a refugee in camps is more than12 years, so the international community must find new policies for resettlement for these people because they are deprived of their future in these camps” he said.
Each Country to find Policy based on Facts and Humanitarian Principles
Regarding current political trends in Europe Boeselager commented on the fact that there is a temptation for some politicians to use the migration issue for populistic politics and that is a serious concern. Every country, he continued, has to find “with prudence its own policy on how to deal with migrants but it should be based on facts and humanitarian principles”.
2017 Eventful Year for Sovereign Order of Malta
2017 was a year that saw important events happen within the Sovereign Order of Malta. Boeselager looked to the near future and explained that a new election will be held in May during which the Council Complete of State will either elect a new Grand Master or take other steps within its competence.
Meanwhile, he said considerations and reflections for the reform have gone quite far: “We had set up 10 working groups to deal with different themes and they came up with proposals that we are about to summarize, compile and discuss during a seminar in February”.
“Then, he concluded, it will take some months to discuss them and to transform them into articles in the Constitutional Code - so it will take some time!”
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