Skip to main content

Challenging compacts: Towards a more effective, practical engagement with migrants and refugees

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On 14 January 2018, the Catholic Church will observe the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme this year is “Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees”; Pope Francis in his message highlights “the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking”. He makes a passionate plea for more meaningful commitments from every section of society and challenges all for a more proactive response to the cries of the migrants, refugees and other displaced.
The historic ‘United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants’ was held in New York on 19 September 2016. It was the very first time that the UN General Assembly had brought together Heads of State and of Government to develop a blueprint for a more effective international response to perhaps the single most important crises of modern times, which affect millions across the globe today.
The outcome of that watershed meet was ‘The New York Declaration’, which was signed by 193 Member States (including India). It stated, “We declare our profound solidarity with, and support for, the millions of people in different parts of the world who, for reasons beyond their control, are forced to uproot themselves and their families from their homes. Refugees and migrants in large movements often face a desperate ordeal. Many take great risks, embarking on perilous journeys, which many may not survive. Some feel compelled to employ the services of criminal groups, including smugglers, and others may fall prey to such groups or become victims of trafficking. Even if they reach their destination, they face an uncertain reception and a precarious future. We are determined to save lives. Our challenge is above all moral and humanitarian. Equally, we are determined to find long-term and sustainable solutions. We will combat with all the means at our disposal the abuses and exploitation suffered by countless refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations”. (#8-10)
To realise in practise the lofty ideals encompassed in the Declaration, world leaders committed themselves to drafting and approving, by the end of 2018, two Global Compacts: one regarding refugees and the second, for safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration. Both these compacts are meant to comprehensively protect, promote the rights and integrate migrants and refugees into the mainstream. It is not going be smooth sailing. Already on 3 December 2017, the United States announced that it was withdrawing from the two Global Compacts. India on the other hand has literally shut its doors on the persecuted Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Xenophobia, racism, discrimination and exclusiveness is on the rise in several countries. Fortunately, most of the world is still concerned about the plight of refugees and migrants and hopefully, by the end of 2018, the two Global Compacts will see the light of day!
Pope Francis reminds world leaders of that Summit saying, “At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 19 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level. To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants. Dear brothers and sisters, in light of these processes currently underway, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions, which I have described with four verbs. I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts”.
On 1 January 2018, the World Day of Peace (India observes it on 30 January, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi) the message of Pope Francis focused on “Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace”. His message is an invitation to “all people and all nations on earth” to realise that refugees and migrants are “men and women in search of peace”. He urges all through four key verbs to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees saying, “In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands. We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home.”
In order to prepare a more effective response the Migrants and Refugees Section (M&R) of the Vatican has published a significant booklet ‘Towards the Global Compacts on Migrants and on Refugees 2018’. This document (https://migrants-refugees.va/20-action-points) is rich in content with practical points for committed engagement from all sections of society. It is an open invitation to reflect, to internalise and to engage in practical responses in order to respond to the realities of the refugees and migrants today. The document needs to be shared with all women and men of goodwill... All are encouraged to interact with political and social actors, at every level, to ensure the approval of the two Global Compacts! Several organisations are already involved in this campaign. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) http://en.jrs.net for one, has adopted the hashtag #Do1Thing so that the Global Compacts become a reality among all.
The compacts and the journey towards them are challenging indeed. Their actualization necessitates a radical change in our attitudes and a political will for its implementation. Only then, will we be able to say that we are serious in our commitment to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants, refugees, and the displaced.
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon, with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.