Even though 2020 was characterized for many by the restrictions and lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, more people than ever before in history are on the move across the globe. Around 3.5 percent of the world’s population has migrated across national borders – some by choice, others forced to do so by necessity. Regardless of what drives them, people on the move are frequently met with ignorance and hostility. The pandemic has only further exacerbated the dire situation of migrants, who are at particular risk to have their human rights violated.
Today, on International Migrants Day, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is launching a new campaign calling on people to #StandUp4Migrants, which includes an online toolbox on how to change the way to speak about migrants and migration. Franciscans International made its own contribution to foster a better understanding of people on the move recently with the launch of “Tearing Down the Walls. This publication challenges myths on migration from a human rights perspective and provides positive arguments to promote their rights and dignity.
In the foreword of the publication, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ notes that the concept of ‘being on the move’ is deeply ingrained in the self-understanding of Franciscans, with Francis himself asking his follows to live as ‘pilgrims and strangers,’ and that, perhaps, it is no surprise that the Franciscans have come to work closely with migrants across the world. “Tearing Down the Walls” takes some of their experiences and uses concrete examples of the work done by Franciscans in the Americas, Africa, and Asia Pacific to identify myths on migration and then to dispel these using elements of international human rights law.
Another such initiative, where grassroots support is combined with international advocacy, is the Franciscan Network of Migration (RFM). The Network emerged after a 2018 JPIC conference of the Order of Friars Minor in Mexico and has since grown to include other branches of the Franciscan family. Linking a number of migrant and refugee shelters across the Americas that provide direct support, it also aims to address the underlying causes that drive people from their homes and puts them at risk during and after their journeys. FI recently took part in an assembly of the network members, with whom we work closely so that their direct experiences are heard in the United Nations’ human rights forums and verified information can be used toward positive and concrete change.
To that end, FI is also currently working on a research paper covering the northern countries of Central America, Mexico, and the United States. While focusing on the dynamics of migration in this region, this paper will also examine the particular challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are expecting to publish this paper in early 2021 and the launch will be announced on this website as well as through our social media channels.
FI joins the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its call to stand up for migrants. We also encourage everyone to learn more about the many dimensions and nuances of people on the move, either by taking part in the #StandUp4Migrants campaign or by having a look at “Tearing Down the Walls,” and its suggestions for taking action.