Skip to content

Vatican Calls for Respect of Immigrants' Rights

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi Addresses U.N. Panel

GENEVA, OCT. 13, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the address delivered by the Holy See's permanent observer to the U.N. Office in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, before the session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, held Oct. 4-8.

* * *

Mr. Chairman,

1. The rights of refugees and protracted situations

On the occasion of this year's World Refugee Day, His Holiness Pope John Paul II stated: "Every person needs a safe environment in which to live. Refugees aspire to this but unfortunately, millions in various countries of the world are still living in refugee camps or prevented for long periods from fully exercising their rights."1

Indeed, Mr. Chairman, the rights recognized to the refugees in international instruments too often remain mere words. In many countries, for example, refugees are not allowed to work, a basic right, and thus earn a livelihood.2 Made dependent on food rations, they too often face real crises when these are reduced together with other necessities needed for existence with a minimum of dignity. Moreover their movements are usually limited to the immediate surroundings of camps, often located in remote regions, where refugees and local people are forced to compete for scarce resources with a real risk of new conflicts unless the needs of both vulnerable populations are duly taken into account.

The institutional capacity of the international community to realize the rights of refugees seems insufficient. The High Commissioner has renewed a concerted effort for refugee protection through initiatives like Convention Plus, so much needed in countries of first asylum in particular. But greater economic and financial investments, and especially political will, are required. Guaranteeing refugees their rights will assist them in becoming "agents of development" even in their host country and not just recipients of aid or merely tolerated guests.

The option of third-country resettlement remains equally necessary and more efforts are called for it. In fact, if international cooperation is lacking, then we are left with a fourth de facto, albeit unofficial, solution: warehousing of millions of people in camps in subhuman conditions, without a future and without the possibility of contributing their creativity. Camps must remain what they were intended to be: an emergency and therefore a temporary solution. Protracted refugee situations -- 7 of 12 million refugees worldwide have been refugees for 10 years of more -- seems a growing phenomenon with the consequence of masses of people without hope and generations of children becoming adults with a lost childhood.

2. Repatriation that is "voluntary"

Voluntary repatriation has today become the durable solution of choice. Fortunately in some countries the situation has improved enough that refugees can return home on a large scale as the reasons why they fled gradually cease to exist, and people have the possibility to restart their lives. What makes all the difference between successful and unsuccessful voluntary repatriation is how people are returned home: if in and to conditions of safety and dignity; what kind of guaranteed benefits they receive and which follow-up activities are developed whether it be de-mining, helping youngsters born in camps to adapt to rural areas, setting up micro-credit systems, or similar programs.

Provisions also need to be in place for settling property questions and land rights. These elements within a comprehensive structural development approach will show that the interest of refugees, as individuals or groups, is at the center of any plan and it will prompt the refugees to return freely.

Voluntary repatriation does not mean just going back. Otherwise there is the risk that people are moved from one difficult situation to a life of misery in their own country. Of course, these plans demand guaranteed possibilities of assistance with sufficient funding by international partners over a longer period to make implementation real. But that is the way of laying the foundation for a dignified return aimed at reintegration with reconstruction and reconciliation.

3. International action

Continuing warfare still obliges numerous people to leave their homes because of fear of persecution, human rights violations, harassment and widespread violence with a systematic use of rape as a war tactic. The cost of such forced movements is very high: the sufferings of people, the loss of lives, the process of eventually rebuilding society. We should not be shy in taking innovative steps, as it was the case twenty years ago with the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees that took into account generalized violence.

International human rights and humanitarian law oblige governments to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction. In particular, each citizen has a right to protection by his or her country. If however a state fails to or cannot take this responsibility and the human rights of a population continue to be trampled upon, then the international community can and should assert its concern, step in and take on this obligation.

In this regard, I repeat the position of Pope John Paul II: "Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and non-violent defense prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone. The fullest and the best use must therefore be made of all the provisions of the United Nations Charter, further defining effective instruments and modes of intervention within the framework of international law. In this regard, the United Nations Organization itself must offer all its member states an equal opportunity to be part of the decision-making process, eliminating privileges and discriminations which weaken its role and its credibility."3 The timeliness of this intervention is critical to save lives and a test of the international community's commitment to the cause of refugees.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, it is measures like these that will help people separated from homes or their land to find a place to live that recognizes their human dignity and their right to security and peace.

--- --- ---

1 Angelus, Sunday, June 20, 2004.
2 See Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 23.
3 Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace. January 2000.


The Vatican CA, US
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi - Holy See's permanent observer to the U.N., 661 869-1000



Vatican, Immigrant, Rights, Refugees

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.