Prelate appeals for consideration of migrants' needs
VATICAN CITY, 25 August 2009 (Zenit)—The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers is stating that a new Italian law making irregular migration a criminal offense is an "original sin."
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto affirmed this in an article titled "Comments on the New Italian Law on Public Security," published Aug. 14 in the British journal, "Jurist."
He referred to a law passed last month by the Italian parliament, which regulates immigration and gives guidelines regarding the foreigners already present in the country.
Noting the controversy surrounding the new law, the prelate stated, "I myself have expressed a very critical view on this matter."
He pointed out that public opinion has been formed largely by "media reports on atrocious crimes committed by foreigners, exacerbating feelings of insecurity, fear and even xenophobia among Italians."
However, the archbishop continued, "those who are benefiting from the services of immigrants, in the care for children and the elderly, in domestic work and other blue collar jobs that less and less Italians are willing to do, claim that injustice is being done to them in not reporting these aspects as well."
Today, he explained, people are fleeing their homelands due to "wars, violence, violation of human rights, or famine, and other natural or man-made catastrophes."
Referencing a United Nations convention on the protection of migrant workers, Archbishop Marchetto asserted that governments should act against the people that fuel these problems in the countries of origin, rather than attacking those who are driven from their homes.
This new Italian law, the prelate explained, has "transformed irregular migration into a criminal offence instead of the administrative breach that it used to be."
He continued, "I consider it an 'original sin' in the legislation on migration."
The repercussions of this law, the archbishop said, include increased difficulty for the migrant to find housing, since "whoever rents an apartment to people in his condition runs the risk of imprisonment."
He added that it will be "difficult if not impossible" for that person to send remittances back home, which will further the poverty of those countries that rely on the aid.
Archbishop Marchetto expressed concern about the implications for the family, including the fact that the "irregular migrant" cannot be registered as a parent of a child who himself may have legal status in Italy.
This new law also makes it difficult for migrants to get married, even to Italian citizens.
The archbishop noted, "Questions regarding marriages are particularly sensitive for the Church in Italy because of the civil recognition given to religious marriages."
Another repercussion, he stated, is that migrants will be wary of approaching doctors who might turn them in to the authorities, thereby "jeopardizing not only their own health but also that of the people around them, including Italians."
The prelate acknowledged that "States have the right to control their borders and make sure that it is not a porous entry for criminals, who may also take advantage of the misery and desperate conditions of would-be immigrants."
However, he said, justice and solidarity should go together, like "public security and welcome."
Archbishop Marchetto concluded, "National common good, in any case, has to be considered in the context of the universal common good."