General Assembly High-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants
This important conference will be held in New York at the UN Headquarters on Monday September 19, 2016. This is a high-level plenary meeting in order to respond to large movements of refugees and migrants. The aim of the Summit is to develop a global approach to situations of mass population flows that is more comprehensive, predictable, systematic, and equitable.
Participants will include Government officials, members of civil society and refugees themselves. The Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice in conjunction with the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC) will also send a representative.
The meeting is expected to secure firm, action-oriented commitments to enhance responsibility-sharing and to strengthen international cooperation. The Secretary-General has recommended that Member States adopt a global compact on responsibility-sharing for refugees and agree on a road map to guide the development of a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration.
Please read more information about the Summit: Summit
You can see the schedule for the day at this link: Schedule
Getting Syrians here was easy. Now comes the hard part.
Maclean’s Magazine, on August 9, 2016 published an article written by Michael Friscolanti in which he details and describes the process of refugees from Syrian hearing the news that they will be brought to Canada and how happy they are to be here. In the article he reports on an interview he had with Rabea Allos from the CRSC. Mr. Friscolanti poses the inevitable questions about this whole process. These include: “Now that they’re here, will all of them thrive? Are we doing enough to ensure their long-term integration? And if not, what are the consequences years down the road”?
He reports that many Canadians do not feel there are enough resources in place to ensure a smooth transition to Canada – these include; food banks, language classes, housing, job training and mental health services etc. The Senate Standing Committee recommended that the Government boost funding for language classes and mental health services.
The article mentions the fact that refugee stakeholders are bracing for one event: “month 13.” Whether privately sponsored or government-assisted, Syrian refugees receive one year of financial support; after that, they are expected to support themselves—or apply for welfare. No one knows for sure how many will end up on welfare. Canada boasts a well-respected suite of settlement agencies and service providers that assist tens of thousands of newcomers every year. But never have so many refugees arrived so quickly, creating inevitable clogs.
“If you look at language as a unifier and one of the chief roadblocks to obtaining employment—which is a big integration factor — this is a big concern,” says Michelle Rempel, the Conservative immigration critic who sits on the House committee. “Some will do better than others,” says Carolyn Davis, executive director of Catholic Crosscultural Services, a settlement agency that also provides training courses for private sponsors.
“One refugee that fails resettlement is not acceptable, because it means we as a society failed to make sure those people integrated,”says Rabea Allos, director of the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), an umbrella organization for private sponsorship groups. “You don’t want, a year or two down the road, for Canadians to become upset with the refugee program and believe that some people are abusing the system. They will say: ‘You know what? Let’s stop getting refugees in.’ This is the concern. We want the program to work so Canadians will continue this compassion toward bringing more refugees.”
You can read the entire article here: Syrians
WILL YOU STAND WITH REFUGEES?
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency has developed a petition to be delivered to UN headquarters in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, on September 19. Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.
Here is the link: #WithRefugees
I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me”
Pastoral Letter on Welcoming Refugees
The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) published their Pastoral Letter on October 26, 2015. In their four section letter they begin by explaining in the first section (Why We Are Writing) the rationale for the letter. They are direct in saying, “We believe that discussion is not enough; this is a time for urgent action”. The CCCB is indicating that the traditional definition of a “refugee” is no longer adequate. They declare, “We can now add a new category of climate or environmental refugees”.
In the second section entitled “Biblical Teaching” the Bishops remind us that Jesus himself was a refugee, “Even the child Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled the persecution of King Herod (Matthew 2.13-14)”. The key phrase is from the Gospel of St. Mathew – “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25.35).
The next section, “Welcoming and Protecting Refugees” reminds us clearly that what we as Church can do is not only limited to simply assisting and supporting the refugee as they progress through the process of selection, but must look to full inclusion that clearly respects differences. This section goes on to note the many issues in need of clarification. These include: accelerating procedures, emphasis on family reunification, asylum, appeal procedures and others.
The final section (The Church: Speaking and Acting on Behalf of Refugees) the challenge is clear, “Our faith calls us to let ourselves be moved – even disturbed – by our sisters and brothers who are refugees”. The Bishops note and congratulate the many parishes and other groups who have sponsored refugees over the years. In terms of the Government, the Bishops say, “It is imperative that this Catholic voice be heard by the Canadian government”. There are several practical ideas that are meant for all of us to undertake. These include: call on the federal government, praying for refugees in camps around the world, support Development and Peace and CNEWA, create local diocesan services, mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, provide formation for pastors and pastoral workers and establish a pastoral ministry for migrants.
You can read the entire letter here: Welcome the Stranger
RESPONDING AS CATHOLICS TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS
On September 8, 2015 the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) responded to the refugee crisis with an open letter from Archbishop Paul-André Durocher President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He reminded us of the haunting images we have all seen in the press and the constant message of Pope Francis “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway.”
The Archbishop provides some suggestions for action which we can undertake. These include:
- Sponsoring a refugee family – he provides contact information for the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC), the Office for Refugees for the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) and the Office des communautés culturelles et rituelles in Montreal.
- Donate funds – he provides some contacts to which one can send funds, such as The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), Aid to the Church in Need, Canada, CNEWA Canada, and Canadian Jesuits International.
- Get involved politically – he refers to the various election guides by the CCODP, CCCB and others
- Be informed – he refers the reader to Caritas International, and the United Nations Refugee Agency
- Combat prejudices and fears – Major obstacles facing refugees as they seek protection and shelter involve apathy, indifference, apprehensions and prejudices in those countries where they seek refuge. When our hearts are fearful, our doors remain closed to others in need. One way to address this negative attitude is is through inter-religious dialogue.
- Stay focused – There are some 13 million refugees now throughout the world, of whom four million are from Syria. The problems they face are immense. We can receive electronic news about the upcoming CCCB resource on refugees, and he provides the link to subscribe.
- Meditate on Scripture and pray – Check with your diocese and parish on plans for special days of reflection, prayer, fasting and community action for the displaced people of our world.
This letter contains many excellent resources and lots of food for thought. Share it with your networks.
You can read the full text of the message here: Responding as Catholics