NEW YORK (CNA)—Why do people migrate in the first place? And what if there was a way we could address the international crisis better by going after the root problems?
A priest at the United Nations spoke of the connection between migration and sustainable development, calling on the international community to help make migrants' homelands safer and the immigration process more welcoming.
“All of us know that poverty and the lack of prospects for development frequently spur so many individuals and families to seek ways to survive in distant lands,” said Fr. Michael Czerny, the Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
“The profound linkages between migration and development can first be seen, sadly, in the absence or breakdown of many of the pillars of sustainable development that have compelled millions to go on the move,” he said, pointing to hunger, violence, and poverty as many of the reasons why citizens have been uprooted from their homes.
Fr. Czerny's words were addressed to the UN session titled “Contributions of migrants to all dimensions of sustainable development: the linkages between migration of development” on July 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Throughout his address, Fr. Czerny underscored the importance of the “right to remain” in sustainable development, saying that it is the duty of the international community to help citizens remain in their homeland by promoting efforts to improve the conditions within these countries.
“That makes migration a choice, not a necessity,” he said.
He also encouraged efforts that would allow citizens to actively participate in the sustainable development of their own countries, so that local individuals could contribute their talents to rebuilding their own communities.
Additionally, Fr. Czerny believes that when individuals do leave their homelands, they must be welcomed and treated with dignity when they enter a new country.
“Migrants must first be received and treated as human beings, with dignity and full respect for their human rights, and protected against all forms of exploitation or from being permanently socially, economically or legally cast-away,” he said.
Fr. Czerny noted that the success of migrants hinges on “whether they are helped to transition from objects of emergency care to dignified subjects of their own development.”
Because of this, when countries do receive migrants they should make efforts to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them in their community, Fr. Czerny said. But he also noted that this endeavor should not take away from other, on-going efforts to help those in need on a local level.
“One way to do this is through the adoption of development and donor policies that set aside a percentage of the direct assistance provided to migrants and refugees for local infrastructure and for the benefit of local families and communities experiencing economic and social disadvantages,” he said.
He also encouraged migrants themselves to adopt an attitude of openness, saying that they should “respect the values, traditions and laws of the community that takes them in.”
Fr. Czerny then quoted Pope Francis, who recently said that “the presence of so many brothers and sisters who experience the tragedy of immigration is an opportunity for human growth, encounter, and dialogue between cultures in view of the promotion of peace and fraternity among peoples.”
By encouraging sustainable development in countries, Fr. Czerny believes that the international community will not only boost the success of local economies, but also help citizens stay in their homelands and eventually make migration a choice – not an emergency.
“No one should ever be forced to leave his or her home due to lack of development or peace.