Human rights of refugees demand ‘priority’

The world’s governments must give “absolute priority” to the fundamental human rights of refugees, a new Vatican document declares.

The strongly worded document, entitled Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons, was released jointly by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

It says Catholic laity have an obligation to root out traces of xenophobia in their hearts and recognise refugees as their brothers and sisters — children of God whose dignity must be protected.

Since the mid-1980s, the document says, the debate surrounding refugees and other asylum seekers has become “a forum for political and administrative election purposes, which fed hostile and aggressive attitudes among the electorate”.

At a news conference, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, said many governments have adopted policies that subject refugees to “confined detention, interment in refugee camps, and having their freedom to travel and their right to work restricted”.

In effect, he said, countries are focused more on deterring newcomers from reaching their shores than they are on offering protection and a welcome to suffering people fleeing situations that threatened their lives and dignity.

From a Catholic point of view, he said, “every policy, initiative or intervention in this area must be inspired by the principle of the centrality and dignity of the human person”.

Data compiled by Cardinal Veglio’s office indicates that in 2012 there were some 16 million officially recognised refugees in the world and 28.8 million internally displaced persons.

In addition, an estimated 21 million people have been trafficked, including 4.5 million for sexual exploitation and 14.2 million for what amounts to slave labour.

The document treats the whole field of migration as a field for Catholic missionary activity.

In addition to supporting Catholic groups, particularly women’s religious orders that are rescuing victims and helping them recover, the document says lay Catholics need to look at how their investing or buying habits may actually promote trafficking for low-cost labour, including in the fields of manufacturing, textiles and agriculture.


Vatican Information Service

Catholic News Service

Image: UCANews

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News category: World.

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