BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNS): Being an undocumented immigrant is not the same thing as being a criminal, a Vatican official told the Global Forum on Migration and Development.
“Independently of their legal status, migrants are human beings with rights that must be respected”, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers said.
The archbishop spoke on July 9 at the opening of the global forum, a gathering of non-governmental and faith-inspired organisations, labour unions and researchers convoked by the Belgian government to come up with concrete proposals for improved international policies on migration and development.
While people have a right to live at peace and with dignity in their home countries, they also have a right to migrate when those needs are not met, Archbishop Marchetto told the forum.
“An irregular migration status, in fact, does not mean criminality,” he said.
No matter what migrants’ legal status is, he said, “their human dignity must be respected and their freedoms guaranteed: the right to a dignified life; to fair treatment at work; to have access to education, health and other social benefits; to grow in competence and develop humanly; (and) to freely manifest their culture and practice their religion.”
At the same time, the archbishop said, migrants have the obligation to respect the laws of their host country and to “strive for proper integration (not assimilation) into the host society and learn its language.”
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