Message for World Migration Day


The following message is from Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, Chairman of the Office for Refugee Policy, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:

“Refocus migration policy to include aspirations and needs of refugees and migrants”

According to the United Nations there are over 170 million people uprooted in the world, some as migrants, others as refugees, internally displaced or victims of human trafficking. These ‘people on the move’ are a matter of great concern to the Catholic Church, as this movement of people involves the lives and dignity of human beings.

Forced and voluntary movement of people are very different categories, but are nevertheless related phenomena. The rights of both these groups of people have to be located within the context of international human rights law as well as the international political-economy, which has a tendency to generalise the worldwide distribution of wealth and work while at the same time generating disempowerment, impoverishment and polarisation.

Many developed countries have now come to accept that migration is concomitant with globalisation and respond with selective migration schemes. We accept that in a qualified way, but what we cannot accept is that these very countries place barriers and obstacles to prevent, if not control, asylum seekers and refugees from entering their territories.

Such policies undermine the international system of protection and devalue the ethical principles of solidarity, hospitality and the common good. These policies also trigger particular suffering in desperate people being tricked or trapped in human trafficking schemes.

The time has come for a major change of focus – a rethink of the long-term interest of states and societies as well as the aspirations and needs of ‘people on the move’. With good international co-operation, managed migration offers great potential for achieving international development and peace. Equally there is a need for renewed efforts to advance the international protection regime for refugees and the victims of human trafficking.

On this Special Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, as we reflect on the message of Pope Benedict XVI on ‘Migration: a sign of the times’, we remember our baptismal heritage as members of the body of Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we are all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue
Bishop of Lancaster


World Migration Day is celebrated by the Catholic Church throughout the world on a day fixed by the respective Episcopal Conferences.

Every year the Pope issues an annual message for World Migration Day addressed to local Churches, especially to those who have assigned a ‘Special Day of Prayer’ for refugees and migrants.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have set aside the 3rd December as a Day for Special Prayers for Refugees and Migrants.