Caritas staff helping refugees in Belgrade. Photo by Meabh Smith/Trocaire

Caritas staff helping refugees in Belgrade. Photo by Meabh Smith/Trocaire

Caritas Internationalis says that more must be done to ensure integration for migrants and refugees as we mark Human Rights Day on 10 December.

The number of people on the move in search of better opportunities, often fleeing from conflicts, famine, religious persecution, climate change and natural disasters, continues to increase. That number currently stands at 65 million people, including 21.3 million refugees who have been forced to flee their country. The number of those losing their lives in 2016 is over 6000 people.

The United Nations General Assembly committed to improve the protection of refugees and migrants on 19 September 2016. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, it reaffirmed the importance of their international protection. The declaration was a commitment to strengthen protection mechanisms for people on the move. It paved the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: the global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

As the compacts are being discussed, Caritas says that they must ensure human rights should be respected for all migrants, independently of their status, ensuring access to basic social services.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy said, “2016 will be remembered as one of the worst years for migrants and refugees in terms of loss of life and record numbers forced to flee their homes. But it could also be remembered positively: when the world committed to one shared plan to protect people on the move. Migrants must be able to live a dignified life, enjoy their rights and use their talents to contribute to their new communities.”

Consultations are scheduled to begin on modalities for negotiations on the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The negotiated compact will be presented at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018. A refugee response compact, meanwhile, is expected to be developed through a process guided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Caritas calls for inclusive discussions. In a statement on the global compacts, Caritas Internationalis says:

  • Countries must share equally responsibility for protecting those fleeing from their homes.
  • Migrants must have access to information on accessing their international legal rights.
  • Violation of human rights by public officials and through discriminating policies, acts and behaviours must stop.
  • National migration policies should not be mixed with national border control policies.
  • The application of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the refugee status should be upheld. A full and effective application of the refugee status definition should be a concrete reality.
  • Effective measures should be put in place to end all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking of all migrants, not only the most vulnerable ones.
  • The best interest of the child should always come first. For this reason the practice of detaining children on the basis of their or their parent’s migration status should be abolished.
  • Countries should ban collective expulsions. The “non-refoulement” principle should always be respected. The non-refoulement principle is based on the individual situation of the person and not on the level of safeness of the country. Caritas Internationalis is opposed to making a list of safe countries to which migrants can be returned.
  • Voluntary return should be possible if those repatriated are prepared and able to live in the community of origin as already outlined in the global compact for migrants and refugees.

Read the full statement.