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Migrants and Refugees: Fr. Baggio (Holy See), “the problems can be solved: these are the Pope’s proposals”

"To welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate migrants and refugees” is the theme of Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Refugees and Migrants that will be celebrated on January 14 2018. The Message is rich in concrete proposals for the Churches’ commitment in the promotion of these best practices. Interview with Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the department for Refugees and Migrants of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

A set of good practices to address the migration phenomenon in clear, pragmatic terms based on the assumption that solutions can be found with good will. The proposals range from issuing humanitarian visas or entry visas for study purposes, from humanitarian corridors to family reunification, from the regularization of people who have been living illegally in the hosting Country for a long time, up to citizenship according to the “jus soli” criteria. The Message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees that will be celebrated on January 14 2008 in churches worldwide is rich with manifold proposals and guidelines. The Message released today, which bears the date of August 15, is titled “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.” We discussed it with Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the Refugee and Migrants Office of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The Pope had already explained the meaning of these four verbs. Which new elements are enshrined in the Message? 
The Message provides practical guidelines for the implementation of these verbs in the present circumstances: a set of actions and proposals that derive from the good practices of the Catholic Church in various domains. Such practices include

expanding legal, safe channels for all migrants through the issuing of humanitarian visas, sponsorship programs, humanitarian corridors, study permits to young refugees living in refugee camps.

In particular, the Message contains a strong appeal to the Church to disseminate these best practices worldwide with the direct involvement of Bishops’ Conferences and Catholic movements, by raising awareness on the two Global compacts  due to be signed by the international community in the second semester of 2018: one on international migrants and the other on refugees. These principles refer to the Social Doctrine of the Church, and they become good practices indicating the solutions to present problems.

Thus it can be defined a very concrete Message. Indeed. The message expounds all the channels that can be opened or extended (for those already involved in this area). For example,

The family reunification channel,

is a right that the Church has always upheld. It could enable many people to arrive safely and legally into our Country.

What does the verb “to protect” imply in its reference to migrants? The Pope mentions the importance of protecting migrants from the moment of departure and during transit, ensuring that they are given all the necessary information that will enable them to decide whether or not to leave their home countries, when, and with which means. Then, in the Country of arrival, through the diplomatic missions and forms of protection and support provided by society and local governments, they should be given the necessary information to obtain a legal status to remain, or to regularise that status.

And the verb “to promote”? It encompasses the recognition of the skills and capabilities of the migrant population with

The validation of certificates of studies and skills,

So they may offer their best and further complete their education, whether at secondary or university level. Their professional qualifications must be recognised so that they may become a contribution to and an opportunity for development of the hosting Countries.

Furthermore, it is necessary to provide an easily-accessible nationalization path to migrants and refugees who have been living for a long time in the hosting country.

Easy solutions should be found for undocumented migrants who have been living in hosting countries for 20 or 30 years, with special regularization programs – already envisaged in certain Countries.

Citizenship is a topical theme coupled by – in Italy – the heated debate on the jus soli… The Italian Church has clarified her position, namely, every newborn child must have a nationality, that can be that of the child’s parents (if envisaged with the adoption of dedicated programs) or recognized by the State. As a Catholic Church we have been relentlessly reiterating that

Citizenship isn’t necessarily a donated right. The jus sanguinis (the “right of the blood”) and the jus soli (“right of the soil”) can coexist,

As is the case in many Countries. It all depends on the will to meet the challenge. In my opinion rather than focusing only on rights, it is important to underline the fact that belonging to a given nation is a personal, responsible choice. This choice entails a set of duties and responsibilities involving the participation in, the growth, and the development of the Country in which the migrant person has decided to live.

It isn’t just a passport; it’s the assumption of a commitment in a given place, in a territory.

It does not mean: “You can or you cannot”. It means: “If you want, bear in mind that this entails a specific responsibility.”

But there are those who are afraid of losing their Italian and/or European identity or feel they are being invaded… 
These are themes that involve the specific Bishops’ Conferences. At global level the fear of invasion is the result of a lack of knowledge or of ignorance vis a vis those who are knocking on our doors. It always depends on perceptions, which in my personal opinion should be taken very seriously, for perception determines the choice.

It is necessary to invest in education, in the culture of the encounter, providing factual data.

Going forth, towards other people, is not necessarily a natural thing: it is strongly felt by children, while adults are often reluctant since they fear that something could be lost in the encounter with the other person. History – I am a historian – teaches us that civilizations were born from the encounter between different peoples when they opened up, not when they were closed off from others.

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