Holy See at Migration Meeting

"Migrants Are Not Only a Problem, But Also a Gift for Our Societies"

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MANILA, Philippines, NOV. 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, delivered Wednesday at the Global Forum on Migration, held last week in Manila. The Monday-Thursday conference focused on "Empowering Migrants for Development."



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Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of the Holy See, I would like to reiterate my congratulations for this opportunity to reflect together on migration and development.

Likewise I wish to express to the organizers of this Second Forum the Holy See’s appreciation for having placed on the Agenda a discussion on the relationship between international migration, development and human rights. This step is a clear recognition that respect for the human rights of migrants is essential if mankind is to benefit fully from international migration. This is true not only for the people who emigrate, but also for the countries that send or receive them.

It also means that all migrants, regardless of their status, are entitled to enjoy human rights and that special attention must be given to avoid discrimination and to protect vulnerable migrants such as women, unaccompanied minors, elderly and disabled persons.

Treaties already exist which include a strong commitment to protect refugees, persons deprived of nationality, migrant workers and members of their families, and persons who are victims of smuggling and trafficking. These are key multilateral provisions aimed at ensuring respect for the rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, all of which -- and this is one of the purposes of our Forum -- is related to development. In fact, how can migrants, men or women, possibly contribute their best to genuine development if their situation is not humane?

In this regard, I would like to recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI in the address he delivered to the United Nations on 18 April of this year. He said: "the future will be built on Human Rights". We are speaking of a fundamental nucleus of values, hence of rights, but also of duties and responsibilities, including the need to promote human dignity and justice without imposing either cultural relativism or cultural imperialism, and with full acceptance of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. The practical application of these values is a key factor in providing success to government policies in this area.

The Holy See has undertaken and promoted in recent decades a comprehensive defence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its integrity and indivisibility, understood as corresponding to Natural Law.

I avail myself of this opportunity to reiterate that any form of temporary and circular migration should never be taken as a pretext for avoiding full respect of migrants' rights, and specifically their right to family reunification, their right to the recognition of their contribution to development both by their work and by means of their savings sent home. Failings in this area would point to a lack of integration and cooperation policies in host countries, as well as of national development policies in the countries of origin.

Development is a key word in our meetings, but in its shadow we often see poverty. Discrimination, violence, restrictions of personal and collective freedoms, are realities that are common both to migration and poverty. Both are related, among other aspects, in forming closed groups, which impede encounter and dialogue, and deprive people of mutual enrichment and exchange, integration and reciprocity, understanding and common benefit.

Governments should continue to create conditions where migration will never be the only option left to persons in order to find a job and a safe and dignified life. More opportunities for work should be created at home and all migration policies that undermine the foundations of society, especially the family, which is its basic nucleus, should be avoided. The possible advantages of emigration are defeated by the problems that emerge notable in families at risk of disintegration. In this situation those who suffer most are children who often grow up without parents and are obliged to take upon themselves heavy responsibilities.

In host countries, family reunification is the best way to promote the integration of immigrants and to eliminate many problems, especially those related to security and public order.

Migrants are not only a problem, but also a gift for our societies. They help us in our work, oblige us to open our minds, economies and policies and stimulate us in the search for new models. Only together we can win this challenge and open our present world to the future which we all wish to enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.