Speaking at the Global Forum on Migration in Brussels, Belgium, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples said that the human dignity and freedoms of immigrants must be respected.
The Global Forum is an initiative that is being sponsored by the United Nations to build a more cohesive and uniform approach to policies on migration and development among its member nations.
Addressing those gathered in English, the archbishop recalled how "migrants contribute to their host country's well-being, and also because of this their human dignity must be respected and their freedoms guaranteed: the right to a dignified life, to fair treatment at work, to have access to education, health and other social benefits, to grow in competence and develop humanly, to freely manifest their culture and practice their religion.
At the same time, the archbishop was sure not to neglect the responsibilities of migrants either. "Rights and duties go together." "Migrants have the duty to respect the identity and the laws of the country of residence, strive for proper integration (not assimilation) into the host society and learn its language. They are to foster esteem and respect for their host country, even to the point of loving and defending it.
In a remark that is particularly relevant in the United States, the archbishop addressed the issue of illegal immigrants. "Unfortunately, among them there are immigrants in an irregular situation, who, however, independently of their legal status, have inalienable human dignity. Therefore their rights must be safeguarded and not ignored or violated.”
“An irregular migration status, in fact, does not mean criminality. The solution is better international cooperation that discourages irregularity, with increased legal channels for migration."
Archbishop Marchetto concluded his talk by renewing the call made by the Pope in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for "governments who have not yet done so, to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and the Members of their Families."