Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move -
90, December 2002, p.
by H.E. Msgr. Diarmuid MARTIN
Observer of the Holy See
to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights*
My Delegation wishes to make some short comments on
how a human rights perspective can enhance the dignity and improve the
opportunity of two specific groups of persons: migrant workers and persons
1. Migration will inevitably become one of the
characteristics of a globalised economy. There is therefore an urgent need to
intensify and better coordinate reflection on the theme of migration on an
international level. Many governments, faced with changing migration
challenges, are drawing up new legislative measures. We need a forward-looking
human rights framework on migration, which can be used to inspire and to
evaluate these national legislations.
A first precondition for a forward-looking human rights framework is that
it be set within a positive image of migration. Legislations that are based
primarily on control and repression of abuses - dimensions that, without
doubt, are necessary - will never capture the concept of migration as
opportunity. Migration is opportunity today, just as it was for some so many
individuals and families throughout the past. Migration can bring new
opportunity for the individuals who move to a new country, whether for a
shorter or a longer period of time. If managed effectively, migration brings
new opportunity for the economy of the receiving country, as well as an
enrichment of its society.
Policies that unscrupulously exploit fear of migrants are not worthy of
enlightened societies. "From bitter experience", Pope John Paul II
has noted, "we know that the fear of difference, especially when it
expresses itself in a narrow and exclusive nationalism which denies any rights
to "the other', can lead to a true nightmare of violence and terror"
(Pope John Paul II: Address to the 50 General Assembly of the United Nations,
9). Such unscrupulous polices are also increasingly counterproductive. Today's
globalized economy needs, rather, creative legal frameworks and interstate
cooperation, which protect the dignity of migrant workers, and facilitate
their free choice to remain or to return to their country of origin. Policies
concerning family reunification are important here, as well as effective
bilateral or multilateral agreements concerning health care, pensions and
Migrants, on the other hand, who lack legal protection - whether due to
inadequacies in the legal framework or to the fact that they are undocumented
- are among the most vulnerable categories of people in today's world, The
Durban Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and
Related Intolerance drew special attention to the fact that migrants were very
often particularly vulnerable to racism, racist intolerance and violence.
Within the broad constellaiton of migration, the phenomenon of trafficking
of human beings constitutes a sad and serious mark on our contemporary
society, taking on the connotations of modern-day slavery. Unscrupulous
criminal bands trade and sell human beings along complex modern-day slave
routes, at times in unimaginable conditions. On arrival at their final
destination other criminal networks that control their employment
opportunities often further enslave them.
of their illegal condition they may have no effective means of redress. A
positive image of migration requires a much more coherent international attack
on such criminal organizations.