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Safe journey: Vatican pushes for global compacts on migration, refugees

28 Sep 2017 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While encouraging Catholics to reach out to migrants and refugees, the Vatican is reaching out to governments as they struggle to work out international policies and principles for dealing with the large number of people fleeing violence and poverty.

The involvement of the church and church agencies in the U.N. process for drafting the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees goes hand in hand with the much more personalized effort to encourage individual Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to that person’s story.

Pope Francis launched Caritas Internationalis’ “Share the Journey” campaign Sept. 27, inviting all Catholics to extend a hand of welcome to a migrant or refugee.

The pope himself oversees the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and he has approved specific “action points” or concrete proposals the Vatican wants to see incorporated into the global compacts.

The 20 points, drafted in consultation with several bishops’ conferences and Catholic organizations working with refugees and migrants, are explained in separate notes. One, addressed to bishops and other pastoral leaders, aims to educate Catholics and build public support for policies to guarantee an appropriate welcome, protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees. The other is addressed more specifically to politicians and those involved in drafting the compacts.

In his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, a text released in August, Pope Francis mentioned several of the action points, including pleas to expand the pathways and processes for legal migration; to end the practice of putting unaccompanied minors in jail-like detention centers; and to halt “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees.”

Scalabrini Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary for migrants and refugees, said the action points “respond to the need for concreteness” in applying principles that, in many ways, already are enshrined in international law on human rights, human dignity, migration and the rights of refugees.

The specific suggestions, he said, are based on the “best practices” seen in many countries, particularly for protecting the most vulnerable migrants and refugees, such as unaccompanied minors.

The Vatican position recognizes “the right of every state to manage and control its borders,” but it also insists nations live up to the obligations they accepted when becoming parties to international agreements on human rights, the protection of refugees and the rights of children.

The very specific suggestions include items like having countries “with significant labor migrant outflows” set up a system to provide potential migrants with information about their rights and obligations; working to develop a system to evaluate and recognize university and professional degrees earned in another country; and increasing development aid to poor countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

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