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Vatican document demands governments protect refugees

Catholic World News - June 06, 2013

The world’s governments must give “absolute priority” to the fundamental human rights of refugees, the Vatican insisted in a new document released June 6.

The strongly worded document, entitled “Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons,” was released jointly by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Cardinals Antonio Maria Veglio and Robert Sarah, the presidents of those two dicasteries, introduced the document at a news conference in Rome.

Cardinal Veglio, who heads the Pontifical Council for Migrants, explained that “every policy, initiative, or intervention in this area must be guided by the principle of the centrality and dignity of every human person.” The primary focus on the human person, he observed, is the foundational principle of all Catholic social teaching. Applying that principle to the needs of refugees, he said:

Protection must be guaranteed to all who live under conditions of forced migration, taking into account their specific needs, which can vary from a residency permit for victims of human trafficking to the possibility of being granted citizenship for those who are stateless.

Cardinal Veglio observed with dismay that many governments have adopted policies that subject refugees to “confined detention, interment in refugee camps, and having their freedom to travel and their right to work restricted.” He criticized government leaders for ignoring international agreements regarding the treatment of refugees. “After all,” he noted, “the states have established and ratified these convention to ensure that individuals' rights do not remain just proclaimed ideals or commitments that are subscribed to but not honored.”

Cardinal Sarah, whose Pontifical Council Cor Unum coordinates the Holy See’s relief efforts around the world, added that the problems faced by refugees are mounting in part because the number of refugees has soared in recent years. He pointed to the estimated 4 million people who have been driven from their homes by the fighting in Syria in the past two years.

Those refugees, as well as the 80,000 Syrian casualties, illustrate what are euphemistically known as the “collateral effects” of modern warfare, the cardinal observed. He pointed out that until the mid-20th century, it was a rule of thumb that warfare caused 1 civilian casualty for every 9 military casualty. Now those numbers have been inverted, he said, as bombing kills many civilians and drives many thousands from their homes.

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  • Posted by: unum - Jun. 06, 2013 6:35 PM ET USA

    I assume that illegal immigrants seeking economic opportunity do not qualify as refugees. But, I suspect that is a dangerous assumption!

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