Caritas Group Decries European Immigration Rule

Recalls Opposite Situation in Colonial Times

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, JULY 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Caritas network of Latin America and the Caribbean is reminding Europe that immigrants are not delinquents.



A joint statement from representatives of the network responded to the "Return Directive," approved by the European Union last month. The measure, which could go into effect in 2010, has been criticized by human rights groups and Latin American government officials as overly harsh. It allows for up to 18 months' detention prior to deportation and banishment from the E.U. for several years.

The Caritas statement appeals to the European Parliament and its representatives in European Union governments, to "desist from the tendency to criminalize migrations and the expulsion of people in irregular situations."

The statement is signed by Bishop Fernando Bargalló, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Caritas, and by José Antonio Sandoval, executive secretary of the secretariat.

The E.U. directive, the statement adds, "is contrary to a global, safe, humane migratory system consistent with the fundamental rights of the human person."

The communiqué's signatories reject "categorically that migrants, being in an irregular situation, should be regarded as criminals, promoting their expulsion, measures that deprive them of liberty and ban them from entry."

The signatories expressed their special opposition to the "application of these measures to minors, as we believe this violates their fundamental rights."

They expressed their disagreement "with the shielding of economies and systems of social protection that for years have benefited from the effort of a working population seeking to improve the living conditions of their families."

Brothers and sisters

The Caritas statement recalled that religious traditions teach the faithful to welcome one another with love.

"Every day we witness the suffering of immigrant families who have lost loved ones, who died at sea, or of immigrants themselves who have experienced exploitation in their work or abuse at the hands of human traffickers and other unscrupulous individuals," it continued. "We also witness the pain of those who remain; we see children and elderly people taking on responsibilities that do not correspond to them to take care of homes, and we also see the daily sacrifice, full of love and tenderness, to take care of families from a distance."

It is alarming, say the signatories, that educated Europe, a traditional land of asylum and a rich land, has approved this directive to expel immigrants in irregular situations.

It is painful "to witness that representatives of countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, England, etc., whose migrations in colonial times to America, Asia and Africa, represented for them not only an immense opening of horizons but also the concrete possibility of economic growth, have forgotten that recent history and now vote and approve, in an ill-timed manner, this inhuman directive," they added.

The Caritas statement appeals instead for measures from Europe to help fledgling economies in Latin America.

"As organizations and networks of a religious nature, of solidarity and charity, we call attention to the ethical dimension of the European Directive," the statement concluded, "and to the need to put into practice policies that safeguard the human dignity of all people."