14 January 2018

Confidence in the future: for migrants and refugees

Joint call on behalf of 16 organisations on World Day for Migrants and Refugees

January 14th is the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, a day on which the global Catholic Church pays attention to one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Migrants and refugees are often on the news and usually in relation to horrors of war and persecution, of hardships along the way, and of hatred and fear on arrival. Never before have so many people been fleeing, in their own country or just across the border, but also in Europe and The Netherlands. How do we handle this?

Photo: 'Eritrea Lab' on 27 September 2017. During the Haagse Huiskamer Lab, Eritrean refugees, together with representatives from civil society and the municipality, investigated the needs of Eritreans in The Hague.


K. Zevenbergen, Cordaid
S. van der Zwaan, Justice and Peace Netherlands
Mgr. Dr. G. de Korte, Bisschopreferent Kerk en Samenleving van de R.-K. Bisschoppenconferentie in Nederland

For this World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis has made a call, building on his unremitting efforts since his visit to Lampedusa in 2013, when he dedicated the mass to the many migrants who lost their lives during the dangerous journey to Europe. A year later, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he called European leaders to an unambiguous and fair immigration policy. "Refugees need acceptance, protection and help, not selfish political policies.” He also spoke of the growing "globalisation of indifference".

Today, not much more has been improved. The numbers of drowning people vary from year to year. The newspapers are regularly covering stories of gross human rights violations, including slavery, exploitation and abuse of large numbers of African migrants in Libya. More and more is becoming known about the horrors of migratory routes in North and Central Africa. Last November in Côte d'Ivoire, African and European leaders were still disgraced, but could they not have intervened much earlier?

Pope Francis's current appeal can be summarised in four verbs: to welcome, protect, support and integrate migrants and refugees must form the guiding principle of our actions. Welcome: today this means above all showing our hospitality - offering migrants and refugees more opportunities to reach their destination safely. Protect: to guarantee the rights and dignity of migrants, regardless of their legal status. Support: to ensure that all migrants and refugees are able to fulfill their full potential as a human being. Integrate: to recognise the cultural enrichment that comes from meeting newcomers.

We first read this call as a challenge to each of us, in our own environment, to see each other and especially those who have found refuge from far and wide into our society. Building together a friendly Netherlands in which people are welcome, based on mutual respect and love, as expressed in the 2015 Christmas message of the Dutch bishops. And we are working hard on this, witness the many examples of diaconal initiatives from the parishes that were brought together in November 2016. We will continue!

Actually welcoming, protecting, supporting and integrating also means a call to the government and parliament to create frameworks that enable and promote this work. In the coalition agreement "Confidence in the Future", the new Rutte III government is devoting five pages to migration and asylum and to development and humanitarian aid. It is a compromise between four parties, including two with a clear Christian signature, who are familiar with the Biblical commission (as formulated in Leviticus 19) to accommodate the stranger and to work for people who have fled. That creates high expectations, but the further elaboration will have to show whether we can indeed have "confidence in the future".

We recognise the need to regulate migration and are aware of the unruly practice of reception and integration in a rich and prosperous, but also densely populated country such as the Netherlands. We acknowledge the risks that newcomers do not have sufficient chances to build up an independent existence and on repression at the bottom of society.

Together with other ecclesiastical and social organisations, we therefore put forward a moral appeal to the government and parliament to see the challenges, but also the opportunities that lie here, and to work with the elaboration of policy frameworks and the necessary budgets in the shortest possible time.

This further elaboration is crucial, and will have to lead to a humane reception in our own society, in which the rights of migrants, the care and solidarity for newcomers and the meeting culture are central. And it will also have to lead to extra efforts to remove the root causes of forced migration, especially in Africa, so that migration can become an option again rather than an acute necessity.

"We see an increasing role for citizens and local communities in receiving refugees: they invest their time, knowledge and networks to enable refugees to participate as quickly as possible in their cities and regions. The number of initiatives for meeting, exchange and participation is large and diverse. We call on the government to develop, in cooperation with them, a sustainable integration policy in which we make optimum use of this local social potential to enable refugees to build up a new existence in the Netherlands. Such a good reception of refugees not only benefits them, but contributes to the resilience of Dutch society as a whole. "(Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, director of Justice and Peace)

Ondertekend door:

K. Zevenbergen, Cordaid

S. van der Zwaan, Justice and Peace Nederland

Mgr. Dr. G. de Korte, Bisschopreferent Kerk en Samenleving van de R.-K. Bisschoppenconferentie in Nederland

J. Wissink, voorzitter Landelijk Katholiek Diaconaal Beraad

H. Crijns, Landelijk Katholiek Diaconaal Beraad en Knooppunt Kerken en Armoede

R. Dits, Diaconale Alliantie

B. van Dillen, Cordaid

H. van Dorp, Actioma katholiek Maatschappelijk Activeringswerk

A. Erich, dienstverlener voor de PCI en Diaconie van het bisdom Groningen-Leeuwarden

R. Grotenhuis, VKMO – Katholiek Netwerk

A. Hollanders, Pax

P. van Hoof, Bisschoppelijke Vastenactie Nederland

T. van den Hoogen, Vincentius Vereniging Nederland

P. Kohnen, VKMO – Katholiek Netwerk

H. Meeuws, oud-voorzitter LKDB, diaconaal onderzoeker

E. Meyknecht, Dienst Caritas Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam

E. Ruigrok, Pax

H. Vossen, Aalmoezenier van Sociale Werken, Dienst Kerk en Samenleving in het Bisdom Roermond

E. Wever, pastoraal werker diocesane diaconie en missie Bisdom ’s-Hertogenbosch

J. van der Zandt, Pastoraat Woonwagenbewoners In Nederland (PWIN)