Photo: Refugees and migrants wearing masks wait to get on a bus after their arrival at the port of Piraeus, Greece, on May 4, 2020 (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

A Vatican diplomat has deplored the “sad” governmental and societal rejection of in-demand migrant workers.

Migrants “often rejected and subjected to resentful, utilitarian attitudes”

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, was speaking November 26 at the 111th Session of the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In his address, Jurkovič insisted that migration “is a natural phenomenon and a human reality from time immemorial”.

The Vatican diplomat lamented that “it is regrettable that, while migrants’ labor is in high demand and welcomed to compensate for labor shortages, they also are often rejected and subjected to resentful, utilitarian attitudes by many in receiving societies”.

“This sad reality is a glaring contradiction that stems from placing economic interests over the interests of the human person”, Jurkovič deplored, adding that “this tendency became particularly evident during the Covid-19 ‘lockdowns’, where many of the ‘essential’ workers most affected were migrants”.

The Holy See representative recalled that Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical Fratelli tutti, laments that “migrants are not seen as entitled like others to participate in the life of society, and it is forgotten that they possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person” (Ft, 39).

“The Pope, instead, suggests that migrants can be a gift and invites us to change the way we perceive migration, acknowledging that ‘migrants bring an opportunity for enrichment and the integral human development of all'”, Jurkovič affirmed, again citing Francis’ encyclical on fraternity and social friendship (Ft, 133).

“People should be able to remain in their home in peace and security”

In his address Thursday, Jurkovič touched on three aspects of the migrant reality: unaccompanied children on the move, access to health, and internal displacement.

Children on the move

“Child migrants, especially those unaccompanied by parents or guardians, often ‘are invisible and voiceless’. They risk falling victim to perverse scourges such as child trafficking, exploitation, and abuse. No matter where they are or where they come from, all children have individual needs and rights even when they cross borders. In this regard, the Holy See urges that all related policies prioritize their best interests at all times and at all stages”.

Access to health

“Access to healthcare, including mental health, constitutes a fundamental pillar for integral human development. It is regrettable that, amidst the pandemic, many migrants have become even more vulnerable than they were previously – a situation that has been complicated by unequal access to adequate medical care…

“Health is a public good and should never be instrumentalized politically or ideologically. On the contrary, rather than a privilege, healthcare must be accessible and affordable to all, but most especially to the most vulnerable persons, including people on the move”.

Internal displacement

“While respecting national sovereignty, there is an urgent need for genuine cooperation within the international community on internal displacement. In this regard, the Holy See wishes to encourage States to design a clearer system of responsibility for the internally displaced, one that will ensure effective protection, achieve durable solutions and, ultimately, save lives”.

“Rethink the parameters of human coexistence through the lenses of human fraternity and solidarity”

Jurkovič continued by reminding the international community that “it is essential to devise concrete mechanisms of coordination founded on the principles that all people, regardless of their migratory status, should be able to remain in their home in peace and security without the threat of being forcibly displaced internally or across borders”.

He concluded with an appeal “to rethink the parameters of human coexistence through the lenses of human fraternity and solidarity”:

“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…

“In this regard, the successful integration of migrants is essential if they are to make their meaningful contributions to our societies, cultures and to 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, neighbors and country”.

On Novena, more Church advocacy for people on the move:

Cardinal Czerny denounces migrants, refugees being “deliberately forgotten” by governments during COVID

Cardinal Hollerich warns: “The EU will lose its soul in the Mediterranean if it does not save refugees from drowning”

German abbess prosecuted for sheltering asylum seekers wins Göttingen Peace Prize

Spanish bishop denounces drama of migrants on Canary Islands: “We must treat them as people, help them and take them in”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.