The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 99, December 2005






Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue 

Chairman, Office for Refugee Policy 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales


The fact that the world still finds a need for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and refugees NGOs, serve as a sobering reminder of the international community’s continuing failure to prevent violence, persecution and poverty and other root causes of conflict and displacement.

The UNHCR tells that the world’s refugee population continues to fall, but protracted refugee situations remain, as people continue to flee their homes in countries such as Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Iraq and Uzbekistan, et al. It is clear that the problem of forced migration has not gone away, and it is likely to remain one of the major concerns of the international community in the 21st century.

It is important that we celebrate the staying power of UNHCR and other refugee NGOs, but equally important we ought to celebrate the courage of the millions of refugees, and displaced people who have survived the last 50 years. Often losing hope, they are amongst the great survivors of the 21st century and they deserve our respect and support.

In this year’s Refugee Week, we remind ourselves about persecution as being one of the main causes of forced migration and displacement; we remember the Refugee Convention, particularly of non-forcible return of people to territories where they may face persecution. But most of all, we celebrate the enormous socio-economic and political contributions refugees make in their adopted countries.

The sacred concept of asylum must always be preserved for the persecuted – its values are timeless and grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of ‘welcoming the stranger’.