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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 87, December 2001


Relationship between Migratory Movements and Refugee Protection[*]

Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO
Secretary of the Pontifical Council 

With reference to the intervention of Sweden, stressing the complexity of the matter, you may understand, also for the nature of the Holy See, that our statement starts with a framework. To begin with, it is today more difficult to distinguish voluntary and involuntary migration, migrants and refugees, since the element of free choice is hardly the principle reason for people deciding to move abroad. Violations of human rights, armed conflicts, political oppression, poverty and economic disruption, the degradation of the environment, demographic imbalances, lack of safety nets for basic needs in moments of crisis and lack of people’s participation, all lead to migration as a way of escaping conditions of life which have become seemingly unbearable.

The right to food security, the right to education, the right to life, human rights in one expression, are violated. Human rights can not be fulfilled and that’s why people move.

It is important that human persons are put in the centre of our attention and guide our decisions. It means that the first point of reference should be the human person. There exists a duty to give every person the same right of access to the indispensable minimum to live on.“Commitment is therefore necessary in order to address the root causes of migration and the pressures leading to refugee movements.”(Refugees: A challenge to solidarity. 1992. No. 20).It is important to remember the first principle of the Rio Conference. I quote: "Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development". This requires the creation of an environment centered upon respect for humanity, and embodying the rights of each person and group.

An Italian proverb says: “Between words and deeds, there is the sea”, not the Holy See of course. 

To win this gap, this distance, it will be necessary to implement proposals like: debt relief, donating 0.7% of our GNP, paying stable and guaranteed raw material prices, controlling weapon exports, conflict prevention, management and resolution, develop an early warning system in order to intervene before conflicts create refugees, capacity building to promote respect for human rights and life.

Passing more to facts, after principles. The present development in Western Countries indicates that the economy still needs more migrants. And the demographic size of many Countries indicates the same. In this context, we consider that introducing stricter laws on migration, entering a Country, will create more smuggling. The asylum regularization will be used by many since this is the only way to get a staying permit in a Country. People will increasingly use the assistance of smugglers to enter the Countries. It needs to be noted that illegal entry and the use of smugglers does not say anything about the content of seeking asylum. 

By developing a migrational policy, a more controlled way of entering will be established. It will offer possibilities for people who want to migrate. The pressure on asylum laws will become also less strong and in this way it will strengthen the refugees’ legislation.

Thank you for your attention

[*] Intervention at "Roundtable Three": "Upholding refugee protection in the face of contemporary challenges involving mixed flows", (Ministerial Meeting of State Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the status of Refugees, Geneva, 13 December 2001)