Venezuelan refugees and migrants require the commitment of the international community

Global Networks and Organizations of the Society of Jesus, along with the Clamor Network, call on the international community to address the the needs of over 7 million Venezuelan refugees and those forced to migrate.  

On March 16th and 17th, 2023, the International Conference of Donors in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants will be held in Brussels, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the European Union (EU), and the Government of Canada.

Several organizations of the Society of Jesus and the Clamor Network have written to representatives of the States and delegates to this Conference to share the reality of the 7 million Venezuelan people who have been forced to abandon their country due to a crisis which has become invisible to global community over the past seven years.

As Catholic organizations we urge the international community to respond to this humanitarian crisis and we insist on a peaceful and democratic end to the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Meanwhile we recognize that, while this crisis remains unresolved, migration will continue to be the only option that many people will have to protect their lives and rights.

Furthermore, we recognize the devastating effects that the pandemic and the ever more restrictive political policies have had on this vulnerable population. We call on the States represented at this Conference to remain committed to defending the human rights of refugees and people who are forced to migrate. Likewise, we ask these states to focus their response on concrete actions that allow for regularization, integration, and access to human rights in the receiving countries so that these refugees and migrants can contribute to the communities that welcome them and begin to reestablish their life projects.

We collectively insist on solidarity, welcoming, hospitality, and reconciliation as principles that allow us to recognize and enhance the positive aspects of migration and to reject discrimination and xenophobia. This Conference is an opportunity to commit the necessary resources to achieve international goals and commitments, as well as to provide a coordinated response between States and international organizations.

In these documents (Esp / Eng / Fra / Por), you can find the recommendations presented by the signatory organizations.

Canadian Jesuits International
Federación Internacional de Fe y Alegría (FIFyA)
Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) of Migration
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Magis Americas
Red Jesuita con Migrantes – Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RJM-LAC)

Migration Beyond the Data and Numbers

The theoretical view on migration

Talking about migration with our eyes on Central America has different implications. In this territory, we can see migration from the theoretical and investigative aspects and analyze the profiles of migrants and how they have changed from the ’80s, nowadays, showing a high representation of young people and women. We can also understand migration from migratory flows and dynamics that are experienced in the region. Noting that although the territory only has 522,762 square kilometers, it introduces a SOUTHERN flow, from Nicaragua as the country of origin, to Costa Rica and Panama, as destinations. On the other hand, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have a NORTHERN flow, bound for the United States and Mexico. Likewise, we can find migratory movements that range from transnational migration to internal forced displacement and return. So, when we talk about Central American migration, we are presented with an issue as broad as the ability of Central Americans to dream of a better future.

In Central America, we also find migration that is not discussed from a theoretical perspective, from academia, but rather, from the depersonalization of the subjects of migration, as numerical data. Maybe when saying numbers instead of names, it hurts less, because for Central America migration is a human movement born in the guts of social inequality, lack of respect for human rights, despair, fear, and hunger.

Beyond theoretical aspects of migration

This American territory traversed by post-war economic crises, dictatorial governments, organized crime, climatic phenomena … terrible structural violence, is the perfect breeding ground for root causes of migration. It is the space where the dream of migrants is born, the utopia of many Central American citizens, the cause of insomnia or nightmare of relatives who remain. In Central America, people are migrating to save their lives, to have a chance! Yes, an opportunity to live away from violence, or to have a job that allows their family to eat, study and have basic dignity.

From the outside, It may be difficult to imagine what could motivate a Honduran mother to leave the “safety of her country” to cross the dangerous territories of Guatemala and Mexico on foot with her children in her arms to reach the United States … from the outside, it may seem reckless for a 26-year-old to hide in the fuselage of an airplane and stowaway exposing his life to reach the United States … perhaps in the eyes of those who live in other latitudes, the hundreds of minors unaccompanied heading to North America are nothing more than a reflection of the lack of responsibility of parents. However, those of us who live in this territory know that each conjunctural situation worsens the already precarious economy of Central Americans. In 2020 we faced a pandemic that continues to extend the failures of the health system of our countries, impacting more to those who are already vulnerable. In the same year, the storms ETA and IOTA hit Central America, making a large part of the Honduran population homeless. All of this leaves us with no possibility of dreaming of a life in our land, our homes.

For those who see the dynamics of the human movement of Central America from the other side, it is necessary to humanize your gaze and ask yourselves: How desperate must a mother be to decide to migrate with her children in her arms, in such risky conditions, on foot, and with no money? What is happening in a country, so that this mother is only one of the thousands who walk in a caravan? What level of anguish must a young person have to get into the fuselage of a plane at the risk of being crushed by the landing gear? What is happening in a country, so that someone risks dying to live?

To see the migrations beyond the numbers and the data is to go in our minds to those cardboard, sheet, and plastic houses and imagine a mother and her children praying at night with a father and husband who is now “a migrant, another number.” It is to imagine eating one last meal with him, maybe a coffee with bread or an omelet and salt, and feeling the lump in your throat because of his departure. It is knowing the overwhelming loneliness of a departure filled with uncertainty, and the great debt acquired with coyotes. It is letting him pursue the dream of a better life for all, without knowing if he will end up like the victims of the Tamaulipas massacre that mourned the town of Comitancillo San Marcos, in Guatemala, or the 166 victims of the recent tragedy that occurred in Chiapas on December 9.

After celebrating the international Human Rights Day on December 10, and today as we celebrate the International Day of Migrants … let us be aware that the deaths and injuries in the Chiapas tragedy are nothing more than the cry of Central America saying that in the matter of human rights there is nothing to celebrate.

We ask ourselves, what can be done? Specifically, as we approach Christmas. Remember the text of the Bible Matthew 25 verses 31:46, remember that being human is wonderful, reach out to the migrant, see him with eyes of compassion and love, give him a glass of water, live the culture of hospitality, it is what makes us human.

Hospitality as a Response to the Different Modes of Expression of Hostility to Migration

This article makes three key points on the dire reality of the US-Mexican border. Firstly, we examine the migratory phenomenon in general and with regard to what is currently taking place on the U.S.-Mexico border, as a sign of the times. There is no better adjective than hostility to describe that reality, marked as it is by exploitation and death. Secondly, based on Catholic Social Teaching, we present the virtue of hospitality as an appropriate response to these patterns. Finally, in a pastoral perspective, we suggest how hostility can be replaced by hospitality.

Migration has always been part of human history. There are many factors that pushed and still push people to move from one place to another. In recent times, migration has become more and more complicated, but this does not prevent people from migrating. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen an unprecedented wave of mass migrations. In order to migrate, people either have to go through daunting bureaucratic gymnastics to get a visa or are simply denied access to the land of their dreams for no good reason. But who can hold back a determined soul from migrating? This is a question that must be considered.

More often than not, people migrate because their lives are threatened. Those who flee the misery of their region or their country and wish to find a better life elsewhere set off with a destination in mind, but without any certainty that they will reach it. In this quest for a better life, they are often met with hostility. This is not to say that every attempt to migrate to another region or country always entails an experience of hostility, nor is hostility intrinsic to migration. However, many places can indeed be considered to be hostile environments for migrants; the US-Mexico border is certainly one of them.

Migrants at that border are faced with hostility on many levels. The means of travel and security checks, far from leading to a safe port, place migrants in extremely dangerous conditions. As a result, they are exploited, and worse, many have disappeared without a trace. Paradoxically, they lose their lives while looking for a better life. Life is lost in the search of it!
As an answer to hostility, the virtue of hospitality, in principle, is capable of creating conditions where migrants can be considered as full subjects, as children of God. In this sense, the virtue of hospitality can inform a theoretical framework to sustain a common ground based on equality, where the welcomed and the hospitable can enrich each other. In this light, the suffering of the migrant becomes a challenge and an invitation to action, to translate hospitality into practice. Practicing hospitality means listening, in order to be able to create bonds of trust. True hospitality is never neutral, it entails standing up for others. This can be a hard task, but the way of hospitality leads us there, on the way to communion.

Read the full piece here.