Efforts to Aid Refugees Are Faltering, Warns Holy See

Archbishop Tomasi Addresses U.N. Committee in Geneva

GENEVA, OCT. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Lamenting the ongoing plight of refugees worldwide, a Holy See representative said that the international community is failing to meet its goals of “solidarity and protection.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. office in Geneva, delivered that assessment Oct. 4 in an address to the executive committee of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees.

“The hundreds of victims whose lives have been lost in recent weeks and months in their desperate search for a more secure and decent existence is a red light of alarm that in our globalized world the international community is failing to uphold its goals of solidarity and protection,” warned Archbishop Tomasi.

“The wider awareness of the responsibility to protect,” he said, “should encourage an added effort to alleviate the plight of asylum seekers who on subsistent living and in a virtual state of limbo are scattered in various regions.”

The archbishop mentioned the “recent flows of Iraqis throughout the Middle East. They are particularly vulnerable. Conflicts prevent them from returning and in the country of temporary residence their status is not well recognized; it is almost that of stateless persons.”

Moreover, the Holy See official stressed that it is “obvious” that “more resources are called for to meet all protection requirements and to address not just populations in a state of limbo, but also […] 5.7 million of the world’s […] 9 million refugees in protracted refugee situations, the more than 4 million Palestinian refugees, and the estimated 24 million internally displaced people.”

“If international solidarity would add to its budget on aid to refugees a small proportion of the increase in arms expenses — from 1996 to 2005 military expenditure increased by 34% to $1,118 billion in current dollars — then a major step forward would be taken toward an adequate response to the pains of uprooted humanity,” said Archbishop Tomasi.

However, the financial aspect is not enough, he added.


“The political will is needed to make the responsibility to protect comprehensive enough to embrace the prevention of forced displacement tragedies,” stated Archbishop Tomasi. “The way of dialogue and of respect of human rights should replace that of conflict.”

In this context, the archbishop noted that “Refugee camps, official and unofficial, would no longer stain the map of the world.”

The present task “is the dissolution of these camps through the classical strategies of voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement,” but Archbishop Tomasi observed, in the name of the Holy See’s delegation, that “for some present complex situations the option of resettlement should be revisited.”

A “larger number of countries can welcome a larger number of refugees anxious to start a new life in freedom and self-reliance,” he indicated.

The prelate believes that nongovernmental as well as faith-based organizations can collaborate in preparing refugees for resettlement.

“In fact, as [an] expression of civil society NGOs can be good partners for their closeness to the reality on the ground, their experience and their capacity to create a favorable public opinion for newcomers,” he continued. “Society at large should also renew its sense of responsibility to protect. First of all, education can transmit the values of solidarity and hospitality.

“Labor unions, employers, schools and faith communities can prepare their constituencies to an increasingly frequent encounter with people in need and to welcome them to build a common future.

“With the human person and his/her dignity at the center of concern, the responsibility to protect will continue finding the creative capacity to respond in a humane and fair way to today’s new developments.”

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