A detail from Timothy P. Schmalz’s sculpture, ‘Angels Unawares.’ Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Coronavirus lockdowns revealed a “glaring contradiction” in attitudes towards migrants, a Vatican diplomat said Thursday.
Addressing the Council of the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič said that migrants were both resented and relied upon as essential workers amid the pandemic.
“It is regrettable that, while migrants’ labour is in high demand and welcomed to compensate for labour shortages, they also are often rejected and subjected to resentful, utilitarian attitudes by many in receiving societies,” he said.
“This sad reality is a glaring contradiction that stems from placing economic interests over the interests of the human person. This tendency became particularly evident during the COVID-19 ‘lockdowns,’ where many of the ‘essential’ workers most affected were migrants.”
Jurkovič, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, noted that Pope Francis said that migrants can be a gift to society in his new encyclical, “Fratelli tutti.”
The Slovenian archbishop expressed concern about a recent rise in child migrants, many of whom are separated from their families.
“This is of particular concern for the Holy See and should sound like an alarm bell for the whole international community,” he said, urging governments to adopt policies that prioritize the best interests of migrant children “at all times and at all stages.”
He also highlighted the need to increase access to healthcare for migrants and for countries to cooperate in caring for internally displaced people.
Jurkovič concluded: “As Pope Francis has said, the world will emerge either better or worse after the pandemic. What is certain is that migration will be playing an ever-increasing role in our societies. Therefore, now is the time to rethink the parameters of human coexistence through the lenses of human fraternity and solidarity.”
“In this regard, the successful integration of migrants is essential if they are to make their meaningful contributions to our societies, cultures and to the economy. At the same time, integration is a two-way process and presupposes that those who arrive are also open to integration, respecting the culture and values of their new home, neighbours and country.”
A day earlier, the archbishop addressed the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Geneva. In his speech, Jurkovič noted that the Holy See was among the first states to sign the 2008 convention, which forbids the use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs.
He welcomed new signatories of the treaty but lamented that the international community was “still far behind” the goal of increasing the number of parties to the convention to 130, set five years ago.
“What is even more regrettable and concerning, however, is the fact that cluster munitions continue to be used in some conflicts today, inevitably giving rise to new victims and contamination,” the archbishop said 25 November.
He argued against any steps that would undermine a commitment to “universalization” of the convention.
He said “the Holy See wishes to take this occasion to renew its appeal to all states outside the convention to consider joining in the global efforts to building together a more secure world. We owe this to the too many victims of the past and to the potential victims whose lives we can protect by the full implementation of the convention.”