A Vatican official on Monday warned that poverty and the lack of prospects are forcing poor country’s brightest young people to seek opportunities “in distant lands.”
Jesuit Father Michael Czerny said “a sound starting point” for the discussion on migration is the right to remain in one’s homeland in dignity, peace, and security.
Czerny – handpicked by Pope Francis to be Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – told a symposium at the United Nations studying the linkage between migration on development that “no one should ever be forced to leave his or her home due to lack of development or peace.
“The right to remain helps to focus the international community’s efforts on its prior obligation to ensure the sustainable and integral human development of all people in their place of origin and to enable them to become active agents of their own development,” he said. “It also helps us to recognize the social, economic and cultural costs that migration can mean for a country when its own citizens feel constrained to leave rather than remain. It is by ensuring the conditions for the exercise of the right to remain, then, that makes migration a choice, not a necessity.”
The priest said the best from poor countries – “the youth, the talent, the courage, the hope” – are risking their lives traversing the Mediterranean and other of the world’s seas in search of survival and a better life.
“The profound linkages between migration and development can first be seen, sadly, in the absence or breakdown of many of the pillars of sustainable development that have compelled millions to go on the move: In the endemic poverty, hunger, violence, inadequate work, environmental degradation and droughts, weak and corrupt institutions and so many of the other areas being concertedly addressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Czerny said.
The informal event at UN headquarters in New York was scheduled on July 24-25 to study the contributions of migrants and diaspora to all dimensions of sustainable development.
The priest said migrants are seeking the “minimal conditions” of human dignity and integral and sustainable development.
Czerny said this migration is a “net loss for their countries,” adding that it can become a gain for them if migrants “are welcomed protected, promoted, and integrated,” and if they are helped “to transition from objects of emergency care to dignified subjects of their own development.”
He said migrants must be allowed to use the education, skills, ambitions, experiences and cultural wisdom they already have, which can be enhanced through further schooling and training for the development of society.
“For this desired win-win to occur, migrants must first be received and treated as human beings, with dignity and full respect for their human rights, and protected against all forms of exploitation or from being permanently socially, economically or legally cast-away,” Czerny said.
Czerny cautioned that receiving communities must be given adequate assistance to integrate migrants in a way that does not disadvantage the local poor, and said migrants have the responsibility to respect the “values, traditions, and laws” of the communities that welcome them.
The priest concluded his remarks by quoting a letter sent by the pope to the Italian news agency Ansa last month, in which Francis said, “The presence of so many brothers and sisters who experience the tragedy of immigration is an opportunity for human growth, encounter, and dialogue between cultures in view of the promotion of peace and fraternity among peoples.”