International Migrants Day

From CSAN Public Affairs

The concept of home and identity is particularly important at Christmas and yet there are still thousands of refugees and migrants risking the journey to Europe at this time of year in terrible weather conditions.

CSAN has been working on immigration for a number of years. Most recently we sent a delegation to the ‘Jungle’ in Calais in September. The aim of the visit was to meet the people living in terrible conditions on a small strip of land near the French coast, and to hear their stories.

A 42 year old Afghan man named Ahmed fed our delegation with food from a restaurant he set up in the camp and refused to take money for it. This was typical of the generosity shown to CSAN throughout the visit. We hope we showed solidarity with him and the others gathered by sharing food, an act that makes us all equal.

We saw the camp through the eyes of our partners in France, Secours Catholique, who work every day to help make life a little bit more safe and dignified for more than 6,000 people who live in the camp. For instance, there were recent reports that asbestos has been discovered in the ‘Jungle’, used as building materials and surfaces to eat food from. With Doctors of the World, Secours Catholique have since successfully lobbied the French government to install standpipes for water, toilets and to arrange rubbish collections in the ‘Jungle’.

The stories we heard and lives we saw have laid the basis for our policy work on migration. Our advocacy work has centred on writing submissions to the Immigration Bill, which continue to be discussed in parliament.

At the recommendation of Seeking Sanctuary – a new charity working in Kent and headed by our member Ben Bano together with J&P Kent – and Caritas France, we’ve raised £7,000 which helped buy a new van to safely transport women and children and goods in the camp.

The Church values everyone’s right to live free from persecution and lead a productive life. Cardinal Vincent Nichols recently spoke out about the UK government’s response to the refugee crisis by saying “progress is slow, but the plight of refugees cannot wait.”

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) views the family as the basic cell of society and speaks of its sanctity. As Christmas approaches, it is significant to remember how Pope Benedict spoke of the Family of Nazareth in his 2007 address on ‘The Migrant Family’ and see the parallels with the fragility of the contemporary migrant family.

We look to CST to argue that asylum claims should be managed based on the human dignity of the migrant during the process of having a claim heard and in seeking integration into a new community. CST suggests a right and duty to enable migrants to have access to full social, economic, civic, political participation.

Immigration detention for purely administrative purposes and without time limit also frustrates human dignity through isolating the human person from the basic network of relationships (family, legal, work-based, spiritual) necessary for fostering basic human dignity. Pope Francis has made repeated visits to sites of detention to highlight his solidarity with those detained and to make these facilities more visible.

So, this International Migrants Day, let’s value the dignity and sanctity of the migrant family and welcome those who journey to our communities with open arms.


The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.