Migrants and Refugees
By Sister Eileen Reilly, Director of SSND UN-NGO Office
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres (right) talked of “Making Migration Work for All” in his report. (UN photo on right)
As the number of refugees and migrants worldwide continues to increase daily, the United Nations is engaged in a two-year process to develop a Global Compact on Refugees as well as a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Both of these compacts are attempts to articulate norms for sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants more equitably among nations.
When the process began in September 2016, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, challenged the assembled delegates at the UN with these words:
“When millions of people see freedom’s invitation only through the flapping canvas of a tent. When they carry their children and possessions on their backs, walking hundreds, perhaps even thousands of miles. When they and their families risk drowning, and are kept cramped in appalling detention centers – and, once released, risk abuse by racists and xenophobes. There is no cause for comfort here.”
The process begun at that meeting has resulted in two draft documents, one on refugees and one on migrants; these will be finalized in the coming months.
One of the new elements in the discussions is the recognition of “Climate Refugees,” those who leave their home because of the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels. The documents also call for an end to the detention of children, stating that detention is never in their best interest. In addition, both documents recognize the links between forced migration and the trafficking of persons.
As the process continues, we are reminded that our faith tradition tells us:
“You shall treat the strangers who reside with you no differently than the natives born among you, have the same love for them as for yourself; for you too were once strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).