The Holy See
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Thursday, 17 April 2003

Madame Chairperson,

Migration has been a characteristic of human societies right throughout history. It is inevitable that migration will become one of the most typical dimensions of the era of globalization.

The history of humankind has been marked by the movement and the integration of peoples. No country can admit that its history has not been enriched through the encounter with other peoples. In general, all countries have experienced the wealth of the encounter between cultures. All have experienced the positive contribution which migrants have brought to their economy and to their societies.

In today's era of globalization, where communication and economic integration have brought so many benefits, it is alarming that, not only do we see new barriers being erected to discourage the ordered movement of people, but that there are many examples of increased intolerance towards immigrant populations, even those who may have been resident in a country for many years and have contributed to the prosperity and peace of that country.

The principle of the unity of the human family must be the fundamental building block for an equitable globalization which is to bring prosperity to all. While respecting the right of states to enact appropriate legislation regarding access to their country, any such legislation must respect the fact that a worker is never just a commodity to be treated just like any other commodity or form of capital. Every migrant has fundamental rights, which are inalienable and which must be respected in every circumstance. The contribution of migrants to the economy of their host country is linked with their ability to realise fully their human intelligence and capacity. In this regard, the International Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families offers a compendium of rights that enables migrants to make this contribution. Its provisions merit adoption, especially by those States which benefit most from migration.

It is urgent that much more must be done to normalise the international legal regime concern migration. When reasonable movement of persons is hindered, the danger will be all the greater that such important institutions as asylum will be placed in jeopardy and that more people will be exploited by unscrupulous employers or by illegal organized trafficking groups.

Migrants who are in an irregular situation or who are undocumented are often among the most exposed to violations of their human dignity and their human rights. Because of their precarious legal situation they very often have no form of effective recourse to juridical protection, even in the face of crass violations of their fundamental human rights. People who live outside the jurisdiction of their States of origin require a special degree of protection by the State of destination. The level of such protection is proportionate to their level of vulnerability. Women migrants, and young persons, are often the victims of particular violence and exploitation. They thus deserve special protection.

Immigrant workers have the right to just remuneration and employment conditions. Bilateral accords, in the case of areas where migration is particularly intense, can be a very effective manner to ensure that international norms are fully respected.

Migrants have the right to express publicly their religious beliefs in the countries in which they have residence, subject only to the limitations found in the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion and Belief and they should be able to benefit from the spiritual assistance of religious personnel of their own tradition. They likewise have the right to see that they can transmit their religious heritage to their children and that their children have the right to be educated in the tenets of their religious belief. Acceptance of religious diversity of migrants can be a powerful means of fostering religious tolerance on a wider scale.

The International Organization for Migration is in a particular position to draw the attention of international community to the benefits that can accrue from forms of managed migration, which place the human person at the centre of their concern. It is to be hoped that cooperation between the United Nations system and the IOM can be developed on a basis which respects the specific characteristics of each. The IOM can provide technical assistance and could be a pioneer in establishing best practices, especially concerning the protection and promotion of the human rights of migrant workers.

*L’Osservatore Romano, 27.4.2003 p.3.

L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.19 p.9.