“Having signed the Geneva convention, the UN convention on children’s rights and other international conventions, Germany and France grant special rights to migrant children. That’s why we call the political leaders of our countries to provide legal and administrative terms that can let migrant children have a decent life here”. This is the call made by the French and German Bishops to their own governments to support children who migrate to Europe, often unaccompanied, often on their own, looking for a better future. In the run-up to the World Refugee Day that is celebrated on January 15th, monsignor Georges Colomb (La Rochelle) and monsignor Stefan Heße (Hamburg), the bishops in charge of the refugee services of their own Bishops Conferences, write a joint release in which they uphold the Pope’s appeal, which this year is about the conditions in which migrant children live. The French and German Bishops point to the particularly high number of unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and speak of a “huge challenge”. While in 2014 they were 23 thousand in the European Union, this figure rose to 100 thousand in 2015, and, since many of them do not apply for asylum, their number must certainly be higher than the official one. “A huge pain hides behind such challenges – the Bishops write –: broken families, abused and exploited children and young people, who have ben deeply wounded in their bodies and in their souls”. “As Christians – the Bishops go on –, we cannot turn a blind eye to these facts. On the contrary, we are called to take care of the disenfranchised, lend them our voice and defend their dignity through proactive charity. Everyone must ask oneself how to help heal the wounds of these children and make them find a new home in our countries”.
The German and French Churches have lots of ways to assist these young migrants in their journey to an independent life: schooling, social services, youth movements, ecclesial associations and religious communities. But “the extent of the challenge – mgr. Colomb and mgr. Heße push on – is so big that the existing schemes must be upgraded and further expanded”. In their release, the French and German Bishops express their gratitude to all those people who assist migrants, in their own ways. “It is because of all these people that many migrant children feel acknowledged as people in our societies and get a glimpse of some future prospects”.