Archbishop Decries Rejection of Refugees

Stresses Rights to Asylum and Just Trial

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ROME, APRIL 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers secretary is decrying the rejection by European countries of African sea travelers fleeing persecution.



Rejection of vessels in the sea violates some fundamental human rights, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto said Wednesday, such as the principle of accepting those fleeing from persecution and the right to a "just trial" when an administrative decision is made.

The prelate stated this in an address at the opening of the 30th International Seminar of Historical Studies in Rome, which had as its theme "Empires and Migrations: Laws and Continuity from Rome to Constantinople to Moscow."

Archbishop Marchetto condemned those who do not "observe the principle of non-repression, which is at the base of the treatment that must be given to those fleeing from persecution."

He continued: "And I ask myself that, if in the time of peace one does not succeed in having such a fundamental principle of humanitarian international law respected, how will it be observed in the time of war?

"And the question can be extended to the issue of the protection of civilians during conflicts, which is thereby weakened in its common humanitarian root."
 
"Another right violated in the act of intercepting and rejecting migrants on African coasts of the Mediterranean, is that of the 'just trial,'" the archbishop stated.

He explained that this "includes the right to defend oneself, to be heard, to appeal against an administrative decision, the right to obtain a justified decision, and of being informed on the facts on which the sentence is based, the right to an independent and impartial court."
 
Archbishop Marchetto affirmed that "there is a tendency, among European countries," to encourage "their counterparts of the southern coasts of the Mediterranean, 'Sea of rights,' to effect more rigid controls on migrants."
 
He pointed out that there is "a series of humanitarian questions connected to such a tendency."

Grave issue

The prelate underlined "the fact that the interceptions and decentralizations carried out by European 'authorities' in many cases make it impossible for thousands of persons to reach the northern coast of the Mediterranean, or even to leave their country of origin or of transit."

"To have an idea of the gravity of the issue suffice it to think that the right to emigrate is also in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without even taking recourse to the Social Doctrine of the Church, which is also explicit on the matter," he observed.
 
The archbishop said, "Hence, here arises the question we could call Frontex [European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union], which I cannot, in general, , certainly address here.

Instead, he added, I limit myself "to consider the rejection of possible petitioners for asylum."

"The paradoxical fact is that many European countries recognize as refugees persons who have arrived on their territory not by the sea but coming from the same countries as those migrants intercepted in our sea, the 'Sea of rights,'" Archbishop Marchetto pointed out.
 
He added that other rights are violated as well, such as the right to physical integrity, to human dignity and even to life.
 
The prelate concluded by acknowledging that, according to what the European Court has established, states have the undeniable right "to control the entry of foreigners and their residence in the territory."

He added, however, that such a right must be exercised according to the dispositions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.