Moving always towards profound love of our neighbor without distinction, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet defend the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.[i] We do this through advocacy and actions. In these complex times, we commit ourselves to both deepen and broaden our understanding of the interlocking issues that impact both people and governments. While recognizing the complexity, we acknowledge the simple truth that the right to seek asylum is a human right, and migrants are our sisters and brothers worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
Worldwide migrants, asylum seekers and refugees encounter racism and discrimination. We urge countries to prioritize just and humane processes in their immigration policies. We encourage interventions to address these issues at a systemic level and through personal conversion. Those who assist these people in the legal processes and resettlement benefit from training and cultural sensitivity. Immigration officials have made great strides but need to continue to improve trafficking victim identification rates. Legal protections are needed to address discrimination faced by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The countries in which we minister—Chile, Japan, Peru and the United States of America—all signed on to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a UN International Treaty. This protocol commits to treating asylum seekers and refugees in accordance with internationally recognized legal and humanitarian standards, including:
- not sending refugees to a place where they are at risk of persecution,
- providing refugees with a legal status, including rights such as access to employment, education and social security
- and not punishing refugees for entering a country without a passport or visa.
We call on our governments and the United Nations to fulfill their obligations under this protocol. We continue to advocate for global cooperation to address the 4.2 million human beings seeking refuge and asylum. To accomplish this, we need:
- Strong and well-funded refugee systems that allow people to apply for asylum, treat refugee claims fairly, provide resettlement assistance, and provide basics like food, education and healthcare;
- Government commitments to keep families together;
- Compassionate responses to address the unique needs and trauma faced by unaccompanied minors;
- Limited detention periods without judicial review and provisional release options; and
- Pathways to permanent residence status or citizenship.
Many of our members continue to support those seeking refuge or receiving asylum and migrants living in our countries by providing emergency assistance and longer-term supports. As we continue to educate ourselves and learn from our interactions with those we serve, we share our learnings with the wider community and invite them to join us in our advocacy and actions.
[i] An asylum seeker is a person seeking to be admitted into a country as a refugee and awaiting decision on his/her application for refugee status under relevant international and national instruments. Persons seeking asylum flee persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, or political reasons, including conflict and war.
Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country.
There is no internationally accepted legal definition of a migrant. Migrants are not asylum-seekers or refugees. They leave their country for a variety of reasons including seeking work, to study, because of poverty, natural disasters, gang violence or other reasons.