Promoting the Dignity of Migrants and Refugees

UN Photo/Loey Felipe

A number of organizations including Caritas Internationalis and the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children organised a recent side event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on  migrants and refugees entitled ‘Share the Journey: Promoting the Dignity of Migrants and Refugees’.

The event featured a panel led discussion, including the testimonies of two young adults who had been detained as minors, along with an acoustic musical ensemble to add an extra element to the presentation.

The first panelist to speak was Luis Antonio Tagle, Cardinal Archbishop of Manila and President of Caritas Internationalis. He argued that policies regarding migrants and refugees should be more representative of the core values expressed in the recent Interfaith Declaration on Migrants and Refugees. The Declaration advocates that migrants and refugees should have access to civil registration, health services and access to justice and that legal pathways for migrants and refugees need to be expanded, including those relating to non-refoulement. It is hoped that these core values will be represented represented in two compacts referencing refugees and migrants currently being debated in the UN. Cardinal Tagle stressed that by incorporating essential services and justice for migrants and refugees, humanity can become more of a universal family, failure to do so diminishes society. He ended by voicing the opinion that the world needs to wash away indifference and seek global solidarity.

The panel also included as speakers Evan P. Garcia, the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN in Geneva, and Grainne O’Hara, Director of the Division of International Protection at UNHCR. They both spoke of the need for the community, organizations and states to come together and support migrants and refugees in a more humane way, especially in the case of minors and children. O’Hara noted that change is not made in conference rooms, it is made in the community.

Panelists also noted that there are many alternatives to detention centres and of the need to eradicate the use of them. Garcia referenced how the Philippines is taking an active role to forge better way of governance for migrants. He suggested other nations should also adopt fairer policies.

A young woman Mariane Quintão also recounted her experience of being detained in the United States. After living for almost 10 years in the US she was detained as a minor and eventually sent back to Brazil, a country she barely remembered. Mariane advocated that no child should have to go through her experience in a detention centre and was critical of the fact that States are more concerned with ‘protecting’ borders than protecting human rights. You can watch Mariane retell her story here.

The panelist stressed that now is the time for the community and organizations to join together and fight for the rights of migrants and refugees. Through solidarity, they feel nations and politicians will feel inclined to provide better services and rights to migrants in their borders. Through activism, advocacy and solidarity we can bring justice and aid to those whom need it the most. It is the responsibility of civil society to ensure the worlds policies on migrants and refugees are based on the human spirit and not based on indifference and numbers.

Gabriella Suriel, ERI Intern
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