Church agency backs refugee bill

Church agency backs refugee bill

CBCP Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) Executive Secretary Fr. Restituto Ogsimer (2nd from left) leads a press briefing in Manila on World Refugee Day, June 22, 2018. RICHARD DE LEON

By Noemi Ann Perez and Richard de Leon

June 22, 2018

Manila, Philippines

The migrants ministry of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has thrown its support behind a proposed legislation to protect the rights of refugees and stateless persons in the country.

The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) is hoping to increase public support for the creation of a body that would prescribe a fair procedure for status determination of refugees.

“In certain advocacies that promotes the rights and the welfare of vulnerable people, the Church is always there because we want to uplift their living conditions,” said Scalabrini Fr. Restituto Ogsimer, ECMI Executive Secretary.

Authored by Senator Leila de Lima, the bill was launched with a Mass at the CBCP Chapel in Manila before filing it in the Senate on World Refugee Day, June 20.

In filing Senate Bill No. 1854, she noted that despite the country’s history of hosting refugees, the Philippines still lacks laws that sets the criteria and fixes the procedure in determining the status of refugees and stateless persons.

As of June 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) placed around 65.6 million people around the world who are forcibly displaced worldwide and among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees.

UNHCR also disclosed that there are 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights including education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

In his homily, Scalabrini Migration Center Director Fr. Graziano Battistella said that there are about 400 refugees in the Philippines, and around 200 still have pending refugee status.

“I believe the Philippines do not have enough resources to be a country of resettlement but it should not delay a comprehensive approach to the few who are seeking security and a new future,” he said.

Echoing the message of Pope Francis, the missionary said that caring for refugees does not end in accepting and providing settlement for them.

“Promotion and integration are necessary so that one does not have to feel a refugee for life,” Battistella said.