Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this today when he addressed the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly on the topic of refugees and their vulnerability.
"The challenges are many, complex and daunting," the archbishop said. "Our sense of humanity is confronted everyday with news of migrants and refugees -- generally a mixture of both and most often undocumented -- who try to cross borders in search of safety and better living conditions. In such attempts, many lives are lost everyday.
"Preoccupations have been expressed that the status of such peoples is caught in legal grey areas, especially when they move across frontiers of countries or regions with rigid migration policies. Concerns increase when doubts arise regarding the applicability of existing international instruments, or when no legal instruments of protection exist. It seems therefore urgent to consider a coordinated international effort, with a view to seeking greater clarity in existing legal instruments of protection or, if need be, to establishing new ones."
However, Archbishop Migliore affirmed, "regardless of such legal grey areas and irrespective of their status as refugees, displaced persons or undocumented migrants, their dignity and human rights cannot be violated nor ignored. Their right to life, to personal security, to liberty of conscience and of religion, to non-discrimination, especially of those most vulnerable like children, come before any legal or political consideration. My delegation therefore appeals to all countries and regions concerned to employ all those measures which are apt to ensure that the human rights of those peoples in such precarious situations are adequately protected and their human dignity respected."
Archbishop Migliore mentioned specifically the conflicts surrounding the Congo, Chad, Darfur and Afghanistan, as well as the Middle East and Iraq.
"In particular, the Holy See would like once again to draw the attention of the international community to the sufferings of the Iraqi refugees and displaced persons, who flee from indiscriminate attacks, from sectarian and violent acts based on political and religious convictions and on affiliation to specific social groups. This has been the most rapid and massive population displacement during the last years," he said.
"Benedict XVI and many Catholic institutions have repeatedly appealed for urgent measures needed to guarantee protection of and assistance to those persons, while waiting that conditions in their country improve to allow their return," the archbishop added.
Finally, Archbishop Migliore reiterated the need for collaboration among states and other organizations.
"These huge humanitarian challenges can only be responsibly faced through factual collaboration among states, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and civil society," he said. "Such collaboration, conducted in reciprocal trust and solidarity, can truly generate coherent and concrete answers to the cry for help of those in need of international protection."