By Lesley-Anne Knight, Caritas Internationalis Secretary General

Here are the stories of six women who took a step into the unknown. Vivian, Zeina, Amina, Marion, Maria and Julia* left difficult conditions in their home communities to go in search of work, security and opportunity.

Most of these women found jobs. But in the quest to improve their lives, and those of their families, all had to pay a price. Poverty in some cases, ill health in others, and in one, a mother had to give up the chance to see her children growing up.

More than 214 million people, half of them women, live outside their countries of origin as migrants or refugees. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) predicts that the total number of international migrants will be close to 250 million by 2050.

Migrant women have often felt disempowered in their own countries and so sought opportunities elsewhere. As poverty, conflict and climate change force more people from their homes, Caritas is working to protect their rights, especially those of women.

They face marginalisation because of the way we look at them as strangers rather than neighbours; as a burden rather than productive human beings; with suspicion rather than friendship.

Governments have failed to implement policies to protect vulnerable women migrants from abuse and exploitation. This document illustrates the challenges they face so that both Caritas and society as a whole can better serve their needs.

Christian faith has long recognised the plight of the migrant. “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for himas for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34)

Our obligations are deeply engrained in the Caritas commitment to the poor and marginalised. Many Caritas activities began with the care of refugees. And supporting migrants continues to be a major part of our work worldwide.

This means offering a range of services at every step of their journey, from counselling before they leave their homes to medical, livelihood and legal support once they have reached their destinations, as well as assistance for those who want to get back to their homes.

Caritas does not just provide care; it advocates for more legal channels of migration and works to promote better integration.We have an obligation to combat all human rights violations and the structures that support them.

This document makes clear that migration is increasingly about women as well as men. It seeks to encourage reflection and exchange with experts and governments about the particular risks and challenges linked to the migration of women.

It aims to encourage discussion among Caritas staff about the services we offer. Do they satisfy the material and psychological needs of those we seek to support? Are we as welcoming and helpful to migrants as we could be?What changes need to be made to ensure that migration is legal, safe and empowering?

We want a fairer world for women migrants.We want to see them have the same chances as others in their pursuit of happiness. The strength and determination of migrant women themselves will be a major factor in bringing about change, and we fully support them in that struggle.