Catholic-Inspired Organizations Around the World Call For the Respect of Migrants’ and Refugees’ Rights

On the occasion of the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 26 September 2021, a joint statement from the twelve members of the Migration Working Group of the International Forum of Catholic-inspired Organizations urges governments, the private sector, and the entire human family to recognize and respect the full rights and dignity of refugees, migrants, and all people on the margins.

Catholic-Inspired Organizations Around the World Call For the Respect of Migrants' and Refugees' Rights
The Migration Working Group’s statement describes how Pope Francis’ message of inclusion is put into practice in its members’ daily work with refugees, migrants, and other displaced persons. Photo: A Sister taking part in a conference organized by ICMC and Caritas Thailand meets a young resident of a Burmese migrant neighborhood in Bangkok.

The statement expresses profound gratitude to Pope Francis for his 2021 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message calling on Catholics and all men and women to “journey together towards an ever wider ‘we’ […] for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind.” 

It describes how Pope Francis’ message is put into practice in the daily “significant personal encounters” with refugees, migrants and other displaced persons in which the Migration Working Group members engage. Working with local churches and other faith-based communities to reach those most in need, the group’s members, including the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), provide healthcare, protection and shelter, formal and informal education, legal assistance, life and job skills training, and entrepreneurship opportunities. This work takes place on the ground where needs are most acute, including in migrants’ countries of origin, places of transit, and points of arrival across the world. 

In addition to direct assistance, the group’s members and their colleagues in parishes and communities around the world partner with migrants and refugees to create opportunities for positive encounters between host communities and newly arriving migrants, and build more resilient communities. These partnerships include advocacy for fair and just migration and asylum policies that ensure rights and enable work across communities to create more inclusive societies. 

The statement details the particular impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic for “those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, and those living on the existential peripheries.” It notes the difficulties created for migrants by the closure of international borders, and how many undocumented migrants, as well as refugees, are ineligible for COVID-19 treatment and vaccination programs guaranteed to citizens. It also describes the impact of school closures for refugee and migrant children, many of whom face challenges in accessing remote education. 

The statement expresses the signatories’ great sadness at the widespread construction of border walls and the continuing militarization of regional and national borders. Such measures prevent “desperate migrants and refugees seeking safety, security, and an opportunity to recover their God-given human dignity,” and in some cases, impede the work of humanitarian actors seeking to assist these vulnerable populations. To ensure that migrants and asylum seekers can reach safety, the signatories call for “safe, orderly and regular migration pathways and full conformity of States’ laws and policies with the principle of non-refoulement.”

The arrival of migrants and refugees has provoked feelings of fear and discrimination in some local receiving communities, including in communities of faith. The statement calls for “a culture of encounter so that people ‘on the move’ are placed at the center of community life” and can fully experience the care and support of the Church. This call reflects Pope Francis’ invitation to all men and women to “feel part of a single Church, a single home, a single family.”

Early in this period of global recovery from COVID-19, the statement’s authors emphasize Pope Francis’ concern that “once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.” On this basis, they commit their respective organizations to advocacy with governments, the international community, and the private sector to ensure all migrants and refugees can access vaccines and public healthcare programs.

The long experience of signatory organizations in working with and alongside refugees and migrants confirms Pope Francis’ vision for a more just and inclusive world, in which “migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome our fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts.” The statement concludes with a renewed commitment to “build a world that recognizes and respects full enjoyment of rights and dignity; a world of peace and solidarity, and of integral human development, where refugees, migrants, and all people at the margins, can be full and active participants.”

Facilitated by Cecilia Nicoletti of Caritas Internationalis and International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, the Migration Working Group of the International Forum of Catholic-Inspired Organizations brings together international experts from all areas of the migration process. The group draws from the rich grassroots experience of the participating organizations in their service to the Human Family to consider present challenges and propose innovative solutions.

Each year, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees invites Catholics around the world to remember those displaced by conflict and persecution. For 2021, World Day of Migrants and Refugees will take place on 26 September, under the theme “Towards an ever wider we.”


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