VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV 2009 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, the presentation took place of the Holy Father's Message for the ninety-sixth World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme of this year's Message is "Underage migrants and refugees".
Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, respectively president, secretary and under secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
Archbishop Veglio explained how the reasons behind the migration of minors are similar to those behind the migration of adults: "armed conflict of an ethnic or religious nature, economic and social crises, lack of future prospects". Yet at the same time their migration has a specific characteristic, in that "an unaccompanied minor cannot be repatriated".
Consequently there are cases in which "parents, sometimes entire families, place all their hopes in the success of a minor who emigrates. This then becomes a powerful psychological pressure for the youth, who does not wish to disappoint them". Thus, such minors "are ready to suffer injustices, violence and mistreatment in order to obtain a residency permit, perhaps a school education, and above all a job with which to help the families who have 'invested' so much in them".
For his part, Archbishop Marchetto recalled how "mobility is a macro-phenomenon of our time, one which simultaneously involves the elderly, adults and children all over the world. It is, as we say in evangelical language, a 'sign of the times'. The Church is particularly close to refugees and forced migrants, not only through her pastoral presence and material support for those in need, but also through her commitment to defend their human dignity".
Turning his attention to child refugees, the prelate noted how "there are many minors who ... cross frontiers alone. ... This is, in the final analysis, a survival strategy. ... The reasons for the forced abandonment of their homes are linked to war, adverse political situations, the killing of a member of the family or the persecution of the child itself. ... These reasons are more than sufficient to request asylum, a situation for which provision is made in long-standing international humanitarian law, at least in principle".
Nonetheless "it must be recognised with great sadness that members of civil society act and react to the arrival of refugees on the basis of stereotypes, preconceptions and prejudices. ... Such discrimination, ... even racism, must be met with policies appropriate for safeguarding ... the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons".
"Our Christian communities", Archbishop Marchetto concluded, "have the 'duty to welcome whoever comes knocking out of need', to show solidarity, hospitality, and a pastoral commitment aimed at the needs of minors, especially unaccompanied minors and other refugees separated from their families. We must give them hope, courage and love".
Referring to the problems faced by migrant and refugee children, Msgr. Rugambwa pointed out that "language in particular is an important variable linked to their suffering. ... Education and the development of new skills, especially that of speaking the new language in order to be able to communicate adequately in the host country, enable [migrants] to play an active role in integration and to take their proper place in the host society.
"Unfortunately", he added, "a large number of these migrants and refugees often encounter obstacles on their educational itinerary, and in their subsequent professional training or higher education".
Msgr. Rugambwa concluded by underlining the need for commitment "to counter the tendency towards scholastic segregation; ... the absence of equal-opportunity policies, and ... the lack of financial resources to resolve these difficulties".
OP/WORLD DAY MIGRANTS/... VIS 20091127 (620)