Call to Catholic Women: We Must Defend Migrants and their Families

We must uphold the protection of families in all discussions related to migration, said ICMC President Dr. Anne T. Gallagher in her address to the General Assembly of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations held in Dakar, Senegal.

Dr. Gallagher’s pre-recorded video intervention was part of the first Assembly discussion panel and focused on the need to defend families through migration laws, policies, and practices.

Across the world, Dr. Gallagher said, people make the heartbreaking decision to leave their families behind as they migrate in search of opportunities that will improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Many find employment abroad but are not permitted to bring their families with them. In the Philippines alone, about 9 million children grow up without a migrant parent.

“I believe that it is time we start questioning a global economic system that relies so heavily on the labor of separated spouses, parents and children. […] How is that serving anything that we know to be right and just?” she asked the audience.

Families migrating together often also face great difficulties. Beyond the struggles that migrants face as they attempt to integrate themselves into a new country, many are confronted with inhumane policies that may go so far as to force the separation of children from their parents.

Finally, Dr. Gallagher pointed to the cases of unaccompanied minors. Children are sometimes sent abroad alone in the hope that as unaccompanied minors, they might have access to support that would not be available to them otherwise. In other cases, minors seeking refuge have been torn away from their family because of conflict and poverty.

In all of these cases, Dr. Gallagher said, “we should not unquestioningly accept migration regimes that create perverse incentives for families to separate, for children to be sent on dangerous journeys alone or in the company of those who are intent on exploiting them.”

She urged the members of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) to follow the words of the Holy Father and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which both declare that families are the natural and fundamental unit of society and therefore must be protected.

The WUCWO was founded in 1910 to promote the participation of Catholic women in evangelization and human development work. This year’s General Assembly is taking place from 15 to 22 October.

• Watch Dr. Gallagher’s 12-minute intervention
• Read Dr. Gallagher’s intervention


ICMC provides assistance and protection to vulnerable people on the move and advocates for sustainable solutions for refugees and migrants.