A Vatican official has backed as a possible “win-win situation” the “mass regularisation” of ‘illegal’ immigrants.

– “Entire nations are facing returnee crises and do not know how to act”

Fabio Baggio, under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, made the proposal in an online forum July 22 organised by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference Commission for Migration and the Institute for Migration Studies of the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.

As reasons why a “mass regularisation” in which ‘irregular’ migrants receive documents allowing them to reside legally in the countries in which they find themselves “could be a solution that benefits everyone”, Baggio cited facts about how the coronavirus pandemic has changed migratory patterns.

“In recent months, as a result of the pandemic, there has been a reduction in migratory flows, but also an increase in the trafficking of migrants by the mafias, […] and also some discrimination and exclusion of migrants in the assistance programs of some countries”, Baggio denounced.

What’s more, the Scalabrinian missionary decried the fact that “in the refugee camps there are no structures to prevent or combat the pandemic, and migrants are most often excluded from the resources necessary to deal with the crisis”.

That’s on top of the reality that “there are many migrant workers, thousands, who have had to return to their land, have lost their jobs, have stopped sending remittances to their families, and that is why we have families in crisis and entire nations that are facing returnee crises and do not know how to act”, Baggio underlined.

“The pandemic has affected everyone, yes, but the most vulnerable in particular”, the Vatican official lamented.

And it’s not as if the situation for migrants and refugees is likely to improve now in the coronavirus recovery phase, according to the Migrants and Refugees Section under-secretary.

“When the crisis ends, which we hope will be very soon, we are going to have massive migratory flows derived from people’s desire to seek a solution to economic problems. […] We think that many countries are going to impose restriction on entry, just as they have done in this period, without allowing the regular channels of immigration…, so as to benefit their citizens. This ‘new protectionism’ that could be on the rise could cause an increase in the ise of irregular immigration channels”, Baggio warned.

For all of those reasons, the under-secretary of the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section made the appeal for the mass regularisation of migrants but also for the opening of more humanitarian corridors which provide refugees a safe and legal pathway to a receptor country.

– “There are much more effective alternatives”: criticisms of Spain’s migrant detention centres

On the question of Spain’s controversial migrant detention centres, Baggio pleaded with the country’s politicians to set in train alternatives “that ensure the dignity of migrants at all times”, since “it is generally considered that there are much more effective alternatives” to locking up ‘illegal’ immigrants.

“Starting from the point that there is no possibility of detaining children, and that children cannot be separated from their families, let’s think of channels, paths, programs, sponsorship, mentoring [and] community assistance programs that can be provided to migrants in an irregular situation”, the Vatican official urged the Spanish government.

– “We must seize this opportunity to change the system, to restart another idea of society”

Lastly, Baggio reminded forum participants that the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section continues to work to remind the international community of basic points in the Church’s social doctrine on the dignity of the displaced, and above all to insist on “the need to not think that humanitarian crises have ceased to exist” because of COVID-19, “because they still do exist”.

“In the Vatican Commission that the Pope has set up amid COVID-19, and of which I am also a member, we are convinced that this crisis constitutes an opportunity, a kairos, to change the system”, Baggio mentioned also in his talk.

“The global economic and social system has revealed many flaws, especially where discriminations and inequalities in access to and distribution of resources are most evident”, the Vatican official deplored.

Baggio concluded: “We must seize this opportunity to change the system, to propose new economic systems and to restart another idea of society and another idea of the world system”.

More stories on Novena on the Church’s defence of migrants:

“Not a crime, but a right; not a problem, but an opportunity”: On migration, cardinal calls for “change in mentality” among Catholics

“Their lives matter”: ‘People not Walls’ pleads for safe passage for migrants from Calais to UK

Cardinal Hollerich hits out at “new selfishness” in Europe: “We cannot be Christians without having in our hearts the people who need help”

Jesuit Migrant Service Spain deplores “disproportionate and illegitimate” immigration detentions

Francis recalls on World Refugee Day: “Jesus is present in each person forced to flee to safety”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.