Statement of the Scalabrini International Migration Network on United Nation’s International Migrants Day – December 18, 2016

On the United Nation’s International Migrants Day, we offer our solidarity and support to the more than 244 million persons around the globe on the move.  The Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) opens its arms to those who are forced from their homes by violence, economic insecurity, climate change, or other factors.   With more than 250 programs worldwide—schools, community centers, and shelters – we serve persons who are migrating, regardless of their legal status.  We also work in local communities, national capitals, and in the U.N. system to promote the rights of all persons on the move.

We live during a challenging time with regard to global migration.  The number of those fleeing their home countries continues to increase, while a wave of xenophobia and intolerance sweeps across the globe.

The recent New York Declaration on the Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, agreed to by the U.N. General Assembly September 19, marks a significant step in addressing global migration situations in a humane manner.  We look forward to working with nations on the next steps, including the adoption of a Global Compact on Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees by 2018.

However, governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders must not wait to implement policies and practices to protect migrants throughout the world.  Too often, we witness enforcement practices taking precedence over protection policies, with tragic consequences.

In Europe, we see Syrian refugees returned to the Middle East without due process and to dangerous situations.  In the United States and Mexico, unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in the northern triangle have been met with a policy of deterrence, including detention and deportation.  Refugees attempting to reach Australia have been interdicted and sent to isolated islands to languish in inhumane conditions.  These policies have placed the well-being and lives of millions in danger.

These enforcement arrangements must be replaced with collective efforts to protect the human rights of all persons seeking refuge or a better life for themselves and their families.  As Pope Francis has proclaimed consistently, we cannot turn our backs on our brothers and sisters and be indifferent to their plight.

In the end, we must work together to address the push factors that drive forced migration, so that persons can remain in their homelands with security and opportunity.  Addressing the root causes of flight represents the long-term solution to irregular migration, not the construction of walls and the deployment of deterrence tactics.

SIMN stands ready to work with nations worldwide to protect the human rights of persons on the move.  They, too, are human beings who share our common desires—to live in safety and in community and to provide for their families.