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Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees


“Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees”


Dear Brothers and Sisters! Through this message, I would like to inform you of our concrete reality, faithfully communicating the contents of the message of the Holy Father for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.


“You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God” (Lv 19,34). Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis expressed particular concern for pitiful situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty. The establishment of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development under the personal direction of the Pope, was also an expression of the Church’s concerns for migrants, forcibly displaced people and victims of human trafficking.


The Holy Father said that, at every stage of migratory experience from departure through journey to arrival and return of every migrantcommunities have the duty “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.” As members of the Catholic community we are all called to respond to migrants and refugees with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight.

To begin with, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and family reunification visas. The principle of the centrality of the human person is necessary for the implementation of this welcoming. We need a social structure that can guarantee respect for every individual’s human dignity and right to safety; without mature consciousness of all members living in a society it will be impossible to welcome migrants. A migrant priest in charge of migrant ministry tells us: “When you meet migrants on your way, please greet them with a big smile, not averting your eyes from them.” Indeed, Our warm smile and simple greetings towards migrants can be a great encouragement for them who had came from a distance.


Protecting is defending the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. They should be guaranteed to receive adequate consular assistance, the right to personally retain their identity documents at all times, fair access to justice, the possibility of opening a personal bank account, and a minimum sufficient to live on. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a universal legal basis for the protection of underage migrants. They must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status, and must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education. Equally, when they come of age they must be guaranteed the right to remain and to enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies. The universal right to a nationality should also be recognised and duly certified for all children at birth.


Currently in Korea, there are about 150,000 child immigrants and it is enacted that they can be admitted to enter elementary, middle and high school without verification of legal residency status. However, their admission to school is at the discretion of the principal of each school. For this reason, even if admission is rejected, no action can be taken. In accordance with the internal guidelines of the Ministry of Justice, a grace period to remain is granted to undocumented immigrant children until they complete a high school course. Nevertheless, over 100 undocumented immigrant children are forced to leave or detained every year. Among them, there are children who were born in Korea or who have grown up for a long time in Korea; they all identify themselves only as Korean. In addition, since children of immigrants who are not documented as refugees in Korea are actually unable to register their birth, their rights to claim Korean nationality and social security are violated. Hence, a special eligibility system should be established to grant legal status of residence to children and their guardians.


In our Korean current foreign visa system, there is no measure to secure stable resident status of female immigrants who are vulnerable to violent crimes, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. If an undocumented migrant woman suffers from violence, she might be reluctant to report the violence in fear of deportation. It is necessary to supervise and ensure that migrant female workers are provided with safe, sanitary and privacy-protected spaces as their accommodation. In each workplace employing migrant women workers, training to prevent sexual violence should be regularly conducted and monitored. If any sexual harrassment at the workplace is reported, a reasonable measure should be taken, such as employee relocation. If a migrant woman worker is damaged by sexual assault, domestic violence, or prostitution, etc., her residential status should be guaranteed until the concerned issue is resolved. Even when using support organizations for victims of violence, no one should discriminate against migrant women. However, there is a lack of supporting system for migrant women who are not married to Koreans.


Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees as well as the communities which welcome them- are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings. Since “work, by its nature, is meant to unite peoples”, the Pope encourages a determined effort to promote the social and professional inclusion of migrants and refugees, and to guarantee for all the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship, together with sufficient information provided in their mother tongue.


Migrant workers engaged in agriculture and livestock industry are likely to face a highly demanding task under such harsh working conditions as geographically isolated workplace and a long working hours. Especially in our country, migrant workers receive lower wages than Korean workers; even the lodging expenses are excluded from their wages. In fact, they receive less than the minimum wage and they are not guaranteed with rest time and paid-holidays. In this context, the dropout rate of migrant workers is so high that farm owners take measures such as seizing ID cards in order to prevent the workers from leaving without notice and to control them.


The final verb integratingconcerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees. Integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity.” Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better. This process can be accelerated by granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.


The concern for women’s rights should be at the center of the supporting system for migrant women. A systematic support should be made by placing the concerned women in priority. In support of migrant women, an integral approach beyond the frame of family policies is required.


At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 19 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level. To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants.


Dear the Korean government and diocesan groups for the pastoral care of migrants, I strongly encourage you to read “20 Action Points and 20 Pastoral Action Points” for refugees and migrants, issued by Migrants & Refugees Section under Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.


To maternal intercession of the Holy Mother of God we entrust the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves. In line with the global care and solidarity, I prepared this messages with a summary of Pope Francis’s message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018.


+John Baptist Jung Shin-chul

Bishop of Incheon


CBCK Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Foreign Residents Living in Korea


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