NEW YORK (CNS) – Addresses on migration by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, struck similar chords about the reasons for and problems of migration, while disagreeing about some solutions.
In April 22 remarks to the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, Ban observed that migration is a fact of life in the globalized world.
“It is not a question of whether to halt the movement of people across borders,” Ban said. “That is impossible. The question is how we plan for such movements and make the most of them.”
In comments two days later in the five-day meeting, Archbishop Chullikatt lauded Ban for highlighting “the need to promote family reunification, integration of migrants, recognition of the qualifications of skilled migrant workers, new approaches to assist elderly migrants, cost reductions of sending remittances, as well as protection of female domestic workers and migrants in irregular situations, especially women and children vulnerable to sexual and labor exploitation, abuse and human trafficking.”
The session in New York came as the U.S. Senate held hearings on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which addresses many of the issues raised in the secretary general’s and the archbishop’s remarks.
Archbishop Chullikatt observed that while governments have the right to protect their borders, “the frank reality of migration necessitates the measure of this right against the right of all people to migrate and pursue a standard of life befitting their human dignity.”
He said that countries of destination “have a moral duty to treat each migrant with respect for their human rights and dignity. Controlling borders therefore requires treating migrants with justice and mercy rather than as dangerous criminals or unwanted elements of the society. It also requires extending due protection of the law and respecting the universal rights of migrants, regardless of their migratory status, especially their right to life, development, education, clothing, food, shelter and basic health care.”
Both spoke of the need to create safe, legal channels of migration; to work to improve upon unstable economies and end violence in countries that migrants leave; to address the problems of migrants who lack legal status and facilitate people’s return to their homelands when conditions improve.
“There is also an overarching need to address discrimination and abuse that migrants face,” Ban said, “including human trafficking, sexual exploitation and scapegoating.”
Archbishop Chullikatt stressed that development in poorer countries “is the real and urgent challenge we have as a human family, calling for our active and concrete engagement. Redoubling border controls or tightening visa restrictions only serves to bolster migrants’ resolution and risk-taking, aggravating a sense of civic alienation to the point where it could threaten to undermine stability and the common good. Such an approach functions to harness a force of great potential good to precisely the opposite ends.”
Where Ban and the archbishop differed was over the role of limiting population growth in addressing migration pressures.
“The best response to population trends is to implement the Cairo Program of Action on Population and Development,” Ban said. “This includes empowering women, providing all people with access to reproductive health care, and educating the next generation.”
The Cairo Program resulted from a 1994 international conference on development. It called for voluntary population control by various forms of birth control as well as universal education and the reduction of infant, child and maternal mortality.
Ban noted that next year marks the 20th anniversary of the document and said “its principles remain as valid as ever.”
Archbishop Chullikatt urged caution on such a course, saying “we cannot fail to recognize the impact that the enactment of draconian population control policies have wreaked on countries whose populations can no longer sustain themselves, nor the destructive impact that the forced promotion of harmful notions, such as reproductive rights, has had on migrant families, trivializing marriage and the family and denying the very right to life for the unborn.”
The archbishop said promotion of population control as a path to development has led some countries to use forced abortion and sterilization “as a means for controlling or mitigating the demographic and racial impact of migrants on their countries.
He said that to the contrary, governments “have the duty to bolster the family … so as to provide support for the institution where the relations of tomorrow must be cultivated.”