Pope Francis has marked the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees this Sunday by calling for greater commitment from countries to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian and temporary visas to people seeking to reunite with families or fleeing conflicts in their homelands.
He has also asked for better promotion of social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees in their new communities.
The Catholic Church in Australia will commemorate the day along with the universal Church to honour the contributions migrants have made to communities everywhere and highlight the needs of the world’s refugees.
This year Pope Francis’ chosen theme is ‘Welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating migrants and refugees’.
In his written message he said that “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age”.
The Church is entrusted with the care of “every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future,” and with all men and women of good will is called to respond to the challenges of migration today by welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating migrants and refugees, he said.
In Australia this week, Fr Fabio Baggio CS, the Under-Secretary of the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugee Section, said that the “only reasonable response to the challenges of contemporary migrations is one of solidarity and mercy”.
“These are two very important words that should always be understood when drafting and formulating policies,” he said.
“One of the main reasons for people to move is a lack of opportunities and possibilities for integral human development. Every single person is entitled to reach the fulfilment of God’s project of him and her.”
In 2015, the most recent statistics released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that there were 244 million international migrants, a marked increase from around 173 million in 2000.
The UNHCR estimates that there are currently 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 22.5 million refugees, and 10 million stateless people – the largest numbers ever recorded by the UNHCR.
Meanwhile, only 189,300 refugees were resettled in 2016.
In Australia, many Catholic schools, parishes, charities and non-government organisations run programs which have assisted in the integration of migrants and provided care to refugees living in the community and in detention centres.