Countries Urged to Respect Refugees´ Right of Asylum

Pope Asks Nations to Provide Shelter for Forced Emigrants

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 29, 2001 ( John Paul II today reminded nations of their duty to respect the «right of asylum» of refugees and to offer them worthy shelter.

The Holy Father´s appeal was motivated by the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention on refugees, celebrated by the United Nations on Saturday.

«This is an important agreement, which constitutes the foundation on which the international protection of refugees rests, having been ratified by some 140 countries, including the Holy See,» the Pontiff told the faithful who gathered at midday to pray the Angelus in the courtyard of the papal summer residence here.

A report by the Jesuit Refugee Service, given to the Pope last month, estimates that there are 50 million refugees and forced emigrants in the world. Their number is increasing at a time when the commitment of the international community in this area is diminishing. The budget of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (ACNUR) for the year 2002 is $130 million less than for 2001.

The Holy Father acknowledged the work ACNUR is carrying out «for a higher level of protection and solidarity,» and he said he hopes that the «fundamental right to asylum will not be lost for all those in need.»

In addition, the Holy Father urged «the international community … [to] spur the individual states and those responsible to promote the necessary policies, to fulfill increasingly better the duty to accept refugees and to shelter them in a worthy manner.»

John Paul II concluded his address by praying «that every form of forced human mobility will be banned; in order that individuals, families and social groups will be able to safeguard their own roots and their own identity. May movement be free and may an atmosphere of peace be established in the world, facilitating knowledge and respect of different human, cultural and spiritual values, which are proper to every people.»

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