8 February 2021 | Address of His Holiness, Speeches


Benediction Hall

[…] The closing of borders due to the pandemic, combined with the economic crisis, have also aggravated a number of humanitarian emergencies, both in conflict areas and in regions affected by climate change and drought, as well as in refugee and migrant camps. I think especially of Sudan, where thousands of people fleeing the Tigray region have sought refuge, as well as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, or in the Cabo Delgado region in Mozambique, where many have been forced to leave their own lands and now find themselves in highly precarious conditions. My thoughts also turn to Yemen and beloved Syria, where, in addition to other serious emergencies, a large part of the population experiences food insecurity and children are suffering from malnutrition.

In various cases, humanitarian crises are aggravated by economic sanctions, which, more often than not, affect mainly the more vulnerable segments of the population rather than political leaders. While understanding the reasons for imposing sanctions, the Holy See does not view them as effective, and hopes that they will be relaxed, not least to improve the flow of humanitarian aid, especially medicines and healthcare equipment, so very necessary in this time of pandemic.

May the current situation likewise be a catalyst for forgiving, or at least reducing, the debt that burdens the poorer countries and effectively prevents their recovery and full development.
Last year also witnessed a further increase in migrants who, as a result of the closing of borders, had to resort to ever more dangerous travel routes. This massive flow also met with a growing number of illegal refusals of entry, frequently employed to prevent migrants from seeking asylum, in violation of the principle of non-refusal (non-refoulement). Many of those who did not die while crossing seas and other natural borders were intercepted and returned to holding and detention camps, where they endure torture and human rights violations.

Humanitarian corridors, implemented in the course of the last years, surely help to confront some of these problems and have saved many lives. Yet the scope of the crisis makes it all the more urgent to address at their roots the reasons that cause individuals to migrate. It also demands a common effort to support the countries of first welcome that assume the moral duty to save human lives. In this regard, we look forward to the negotiation of the European Union’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum, while noting that concrete policies and mechanisms will not work unless they are supported by the necessary political will and commitment of all parties involved, including civil society and migrants themselves.

The Holy See appreciates every effort made to assist migrants and supports the commitment of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), presently celebrating the seventieth anniversary of its foundation, in full respect for the values expressed in its Constitution and of the culture of the member states in which the Organization works. Likewise, the Holy See, as a member of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), remains faithful to the principles laid down in the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the status of refugees and in the Protocol of 1967, both of which set forth the legal definition of refugees, their rights and the legal obligation of states to protect them. […]