Sharing the Journeys

by Phil Kerton, Seeking Sanctuary 

This month sees the 20th observation of Refugee Week (18-24 June), centred around the UN's World Refugee Day on Wednesday 20 June, established in 2001, 50 years after the UN Convention on Refugees was adopted.

These are opportunities to remember the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees: every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. These effects of conflict remain the officially recognised reasons for granting refugee status, despite increasing understanding of the terrors of natural and human-made disasters.

This year, the day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee, an action strongly supported by Pope Francis.

Refugee status can take months or years to obtain via an asylum application (to be lodged only from within the UK) and with minimal income and grudging access to healthcare.

This is very different from the attitude of Pope Francis, who says, 'I can … see in this person a human being with dignity identical to my own, a creature infinitely loved by the Father, an image of God, …'.

The UN has asked its High Commissioner for Refugees to propose a ‘global compact on refugees’ to the General Assembly in September 2018. This will have two complementary parts: a Refugee Response Framework, as Member States agreed in Annex I to the 2016 Declaration of a comprehensive refugee response programme, supplemented by a preamble and concluding paragraphs; and a Programme of Action underpinning the Framework that sets out actions to ensure its full implementation. A parallel global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration is being drafted, to set out a range of principles, commitments and understandings regarding international migration in all its dimensions, and make an important contribution to global governance and enhance coordination on international migration.

The Holy See has made significant input to the preparation of these Compacts, stressing what Pope Francis wrote in his message for this year's Day of Migrants and Refugees: 'our shared response can helpfully be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, protect, promote and integrate'.

We can share those journeys in this 20th year of Refugee Week and near 20th June, by praying and reflecting while we walk, and discerning what simple actions we are able to take.

Phil Kerton

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