Welcoming the Stranger – 20 Vatican Policy Guidelines for Systemic Change 

by | Nov 15, 2017 | Formation, Systemic change

In August of this year, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s Section for Migrants and Refugees — one of the newest offices created by Pope Francis — offered 20 policy guidelines to flesh out his call for Welcoming the Stranger.

For those interested in addressing the complex roots of so much of the suffering of migrants and refugees today it offers food for thought. Think about what needs to be changed as we strive to welcome the strangers in our midst. The guidelines can serve as a kind of provocation of conscience for us who have committed ourselves to welcoming the stranger. Titled, “20 Action Points for Global Compacts,” you can find it in the site’s Resource Folders. Its opening paragraphs introduce the points.

For centuries, people on the move have received the assistance and special pastoral attention of the Catholic Church. Today, facing the largest movement of displaced peoples in recent memory, the Church feels compelled to continue this work in solidarity with them and in cooperation with the international community.

The Church has already taken a stand on many of the issues which will be included in the Global Compacts and, drawing on its diverse and longstanding pastoral experience, would like to contribute actively to the two processes. To support this contribution, the Vatican’s Section on Migrants & Refugees (Dicastery for promoting Integral Human Development), consulting with various Bishops’ Conferences and, has prepared the following Twenty Action Points. They are grounded in the Church’s best practices responding to the needs of migrants and refugees at the grassroots level. They do not exhaust the Church’s teaching on migrants and refugees but provide practical considerations which Catholic and other advocates can use, add to and develop in their dialogue with governments towards the Global Compacts.

The twenty points, followed in the document with objectives for implementation, are these (quoted directly):

I – To Welcome: Enhancing Safe and Legal Channels for Migrants and Refugees

1. Encourage States to ban arbitrary and collective expulsions. The “non refoulement” [Ed. repatriation] principle should always be respected. States should avoid using safe country lists, as such lists often fail to meet the refugee’s needs for protection.
2. Encourage States and all actors involved to expand the number and range of alternative legal pathways for safe and voluntary migration and resettlement, in full respect for the principle of non-refoulement (Ed. forced repatriation).
3. Encourage States to adopt a national security perspective that fully takes into account the security and human rights of all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees entering its territory.

II – To Protect: Ensuring Migrants’ and Refugees’ Rights and Dignity

4. Encourage States with significant labor migrant outflows to adopt policies and practices which provide protections for citizens choosing to emigrate.
5. Encourage States with significant labor migrant inflows to adopt national policies which protect against exploitation, forced labor, or trafficking.
6. Encourage States to adopt national policies which enable migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees to make the best use of their skills and capacities, in order to better contribute to their own and their communities’ well-being.
7. Encourage States to comply with their obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) when enacting domestic legislation to address the vulnerable situation of unaccompanied children or minors separated from their family.
8. Encourage States to comply with their obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) when dealing with all migrant minors
9. Encourage States to adopt national policies that provide equal access to education for migrant, asylum seeker and refugee learners of all levels.
10. Encourage States to adopt legislation which provides migrants and refugees with access to adequate social protections.
11. Encourage States to enact legislation to prevent migrants and refugees from becoming “stateless”.

III – To Promote: Advancing Migrants’ and Refugees’ Integral Human Development

12. Encourage States to enact legislation that enables the recognition, transfer and further development of the formal skills of all migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees residing in the host country.
13. Encourage States to adopt laws, policies, and practices which facilitate the local integration of migrants, asylum seekers and refugee populations.
14. Encourage States to adopt policies and practices which promote and preserve the integrity and well-being of the family regardless of migratory status.
15. Encourage States to adopt policies and practices that provide migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with special needs or vulnerabilities with the same opportunities as other disabled citizens.
16. Encourage the international community to increase its share of development and emergency assistance to States which host and support large influxes of refugees and migrants fleeing armed conflict so all may benefit, regardless of migratory status.
17. Encourage States to adopt policies and practices that guarantee the freedom of religion, in both belief and practice, to all migrants and refugees regardless of their migratory status.

IV – To Integrate: Enriching Communities through Wider Participation of Migrants and Refugees

18. On the basis that integration is neither assimilation nor incorporation, but a “two-way process,” which is essentially rooted in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness, encourage States to enact legislation which facilitates local integration.
19. Encourage States to adopt policies and programmes which actively promote a positive narrative on migrants and refugees and the solidarity towards them.
20. When foreign nationals are forced to flee from violence or environmental crisis in the host country, they are often eligible for voluntary repatriation programs or evacuation programs. In these cases, the host State, donor states or the State of origin should be encouraged to adopt policies and procedures which facilitate the reintegration of returnees.


This reflects the experience and wisdom of those who deal directly with the problems and seek to address the root causes of the suffering of migrants and refugees today.

  • Do I welcome these suggestions?
  • If not, what are my reasons for disagreeing with people directly involved?

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