Opening the doors to refugees

The Bishops' Conference encourages reception. Document by Caritas and NGOs to join EU programs

“We firmly believe that from the standpoint of human and Christian rights special attention must be devoted to migrants and refugees”, reads a recent statement by the Slovakian bishops’ conference on the debate regarding the growing flow of refugees in European countries. Caritas national office, along with other non-governmental organizations, have launched an appeal to the government of the Slovakian Republic to adhere to the European program on migration, implementing legal procedures for the admission of vulnerable refugees. Although Slovakia – as a EU inland Country – is not involved with the problem of migrants landings via sea, many people, organizations and institutions, including the Catholic Church, firmly reiterate that this problem cannot be ignored. Concrete help. “Every State, as well as the international community as a whole, must choose the most appropriate means to help migrants and refugees and contribute to the solution of problems in their Countries of origin”, the bishops write in their statement, underlining that the Catholic Church in Slovakia intends to support this process with all possible means, to “express solidarity and Christian love to people in need”. In the June plenary meeting the Bishops’ Conference adopted four projects of humanitarian aid for persecuted Christians and refugees – for an overall amount of over 190 thousand Euros – financed by official structures of the Church in Slovakia in cooperation with humanitarian organizations and Catholic Charities. From April 2014, the National Office of Caritas has helped over 250 refugees from around the world through its Raphael and Bakhita projects, both of which provide professional, legal advice and social services. “Hundreds of people have been forced to abandon their lands owing to inhuman treatment and persecution, and sought help in our Country in the hope of calling it their new home”, said Radovan Gumulak, Caritas general secretary, who underlined that “each of them deserves our welcome and solidarity”. In the framework of the Raphael project, collaborators and Caritas workers support over 120 people from developing countries. Since its establishment, it handled over 500 cases involving social, legal and language problems. Special attention is dedicated to migrant children and adolescents. “The Mediterranean is also our sea”. Over the past weeks Caritas and other non-governmental organizations have launched an appeal to the Slovakian government to adhere to the European program on migration, with legal options for the admission of refugees. In a letter to prime minister Robert Fico, they claim that “the Mediterranean is also our Sea”, suggesting various procedures and concrete solutions as regards Slovakia’s approach towards the present crisis in the area of migration. “We have the necessary human and material capacities to implement asylum procedures and for the integration of refugees into society. EU funding is available along with grants from our national budget, so there is no need to worry. National structures should start working on the integration program avoiding statements that may trigger feelings of fear and phobia across the population”, said Zuzana Stevulova, member of the Human Rights League. According to several NGOs, including Caritas, the situation of refugees who migrate across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece is very complex and it cannot be resolved in the short term: “We have to respond by creating safe and legal pathways for refugees, for example by giving them the opportunity to study or to obtain medical care in Slovakia, or through direct transfer to our country.” The initiative of non-governmental organizations came as a response to the negative attitude of the government and of Slovakian political leaders to the question of migrants and to the measures suggested by the EU and its Member States. “We confide that the Interior Minister, responsible of asylum and migration policies, will seize this opportunity to provide a detailed explanation of the complex problems of migration to the public opinion. Analyses by experts and the appropriate discernment of the terms of the question are lacking in the public debate, this causes confusion and fuels extremist positions”, concluded Zuzana Stevulova.

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